Law For Political Parties
This topic provides information about legal provisions related to political parties.
How does a political party get set up?
The law (The Representation of the People Act 1951 Section 29A) sets down certain conditions for a political party to form and get registered by the Election Commission of India (ECI):
- It must consist only of Indian citizens
- It must call itself a political party set up for the purpose of contesting elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures and for no other purpose.
- It must have at least 100 registered electors as its members.
An application for registration (along with all supporting documents) is to be submitted to the Secretary of the ECI in the prescribed format.
Also, after a political party has been registered by the ECI, it is its legal duty to keep the ECI duly informed of any change in its name, head office, office-bearers, address, or in any other material matters, like its constitution.
What are the rules and regulation governing internal party operations?
Currently, there is no express provision for internal democratic regulation of political parties in India – the only (limited) provision in the law requires an explicit undertaking pledging true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India and the principles enshrined in it.
Further, the ECI also requires that the party application should be accompanied by:
- documents and information related to the organizational structure of the party,
- the powers and functions of its organs
- the method of appointment, details of all office-bearers with processes for their election etc.
Can political parties be de-registered by the Election Commission?
The ECI is not empowered to de-register parties on the grounds of violating the Constitution or breaching the undertaking given to it at the time of registration. A party can only be de-registered if its registration was obtained by fraud; if it is declared illegal by the Central Government; or if a party amends its internal Constitution and notifies the ECI that it can no longer abide by the Indian Constitution.
How are election symbols chosen and allotted to political parties?
Election symbols are simple images that are easily identifiable by the general mass of voters. Each symbol represents a particular political party and helps the voter to identify the party of her choice while casting her vote. This becomes particularly important where voters are illiterate and rely only on the symbols to identify the party they wish to vote for.
The ECI decides which party gets which symbol. Only parties that are recognised by the ECI can reserve symbols for their own exclusive use). This is an important reason why political parties try to get recognised by the ECI. Unrecognised parties can pick from any unreserved or free symbols. To view a list of all free symbols, click here.
The symbol reserved for a National party can be exclusively used by it and its candidates in all states throughout India. State parties, on the other hand, have symbols reserved for them only in the state(s) where they are so recognised. The ECI has also stipulated that a symbol reserved for a state party in any state will not be reserved for another state party in any other state (with effect from December, 1997), or be a free symbol anywhere else.
How are parties recognised as ‘regional’ and ‘national’ political parties?
Political parties may be recognised as ‘National Party’ or a ‘State Party’ based on its past performance in elections and its representation in Lok Sabha/Vidhan Sabha. To access the criteria that needs to be fulfilled, click here.
The primary advantage of being recognised as a National Party or a State Party is that the Party is entitled to use its reserved symbol for all its candidates contesting elections throughout the country or the State, as the case may be. There are also other advantages such as
- dedicated broadcast slots on public broadcasters,
- lesser number of proposers required to file nomination papers, grant of two free copies of electoral rolls,
- nomination of greater number of leaders/star campaigners for campaigning (expenditure incurred by them towards travel for propagating the programme of the political party is exempted from inclusion towards a candidate’s total expenditure limits) etc. (The Representation of the People Act 1951 Section 77)