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De-Registration of Political party: Power and controversy


There are over 1,780 registered, but unrecognised political parties in India and many of them don’t undertake any political activity. Many research and Newspaper Organisations found out that several inactive political parties indulge in financial scams and money laundering. For instance, The Election Commission has sent a notice to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the year 2000 to show cause why it should not be deregistered as a political party on the basis of a judgement by the Kerala High Court which has declared the holding of hartals by force as illegal and unconstitutional. This matter went to Supreme Court and it was mentioned by the court the Election Commission of India has no power to de-register any political party.


Registration of Political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. A party seeking registration under the said Section with the Commission has to submit an application to the Commission within 30 days following the date of its formation as per guidelines prescribed by the Election Commission of India in the exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Commission of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. However, the entire Representation of the People Act, 1951 does not provide any mechanism for the de-registration of a political party.


In the year 2002, Kerala High Court held that the Election Commission of India while exercising the power to register a political party under Section 29A of the Act acts quasi-judicially and once a political party is registered, no power of review having been conferred on the Election Commission of India, the Election Commission has no power to de-register a political party for having violated the provisions of the Constitution or committed a breach of an undertaking given to the Election Commission. (In the case of Indian National Congress (I) vs Institute Of Social Welfare & Ors.)


Many times HCs, Supreme Court, Election Commission and Law Commission put up the argument before the legislature and Executive to bring law related to De-registration of a political party. Also, In the year 2016, the Election Commission had recommended 47 proposals of Electoral Reforms and one of the reforms suggested was related to "de-registration of political parties.


In the present scenario, The Election Commission possesses the power to register a political party but it does not possess the power to de-register it. However, the Commission can review its order of registering a political party when it falls within the ambit of playing fraud on commission and if the party is declared unlawful under UAPA or any other law.

In its 61st Report on Electoral Reforms, Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice recommended that the Election Commission of India has assumed the power under para 16 A of the Election Symbol (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 to de-recognize the Political Parties in the event of a violation of Model Code of Conduct. The net effect of de-recognition of the political party makes that party almost dysfunctional as its symbol is taken away.


Law Commission of India’s report on Electoral Reforms, Report No. 255 (March 12, 2015) also supported the view of the Election commission which states that:

  • There is no mechanism to review a party's practice against the principles enshrined in the Constitution or against the requirements of the ECI's Guidelines and Application Format for the Registration of Political Parties under Section 29A.

  • There is no power of de-registration if parties having registered under section 29A of the RPA continue to avail of tax benefits under section 13A of the IT Act, without contesting elections.


Many political parties get registered but never contest election and such parties exist only on paper. From various investigation reports by Election Commission, it can be inferred that most of these parties are formed to get income tax exemption or used for money laundering and bribing in general elections. It would only be logical that the Commission which has the power to register political parties is also empowered to de-register it in appropriate cases. One of the recommendations given by the Law Commission of India is that the authority for registration, de-registration, recognition and de-recognition of parties and for appointing the body of auditors should be the Election Commission whose decisions should be final and only subject to review by the Supreme Court on points of law.


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