Delhi HC upholds political parties’ right to contest municipal elections

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court recently affirmed that political parties, recognised by the State Election Commission (SEC), are entitled to contest municipal elections, dismissing a challenge against the existing electoral rules.

The Division Bench, led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, stated that there is no constitutional prohibition under Article 243ZA or 243R that prevents recognised political parties from participating in these polls.

The court’s decision came in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Lokesh Kumar, an Independent candidate in the 2022 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, who argued that the rules favouring recognised political parties with reserved symbols undermined the fairness of the electoral process for Independents like himself.

However, the Bench cited the historical context and the practical necessity of election symbols, noting their critical role in aiding a largely illiterate electorate during India’s first General Election.

The court found the SEC’s adoption of political parties’ election symbols under the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Election of Councillors) Rules, 2012, to be “reasonable and not arbitrary.”

Further, the court stressed the inherent powers of the SEC to recognise political parties and adopt their symbols, akin to the Election Commission of India, under the Constitution and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.

“In light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Kanhiya Lal (supra) the recognition granted by SEC to the political parties to contest municipal elections is within its jurisdiction and not ultra vires. There is no bar under Article 243ZA or 243R on political parties from contesting municipal elections,” the court said.

Dismissing the plea, the Bench concluded that the legal framework allows for the participation of political parties in municipal elections and does not disadvantage Independent candidates.

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