Shiv Sena debacle must stand as an important lesson

Source– The post is based on the article “Shiv Sena debacle must stand as an important lesson” published in The Indian Express on 27th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Relevance: Issues relating to political parties

News-  Recently, the ECI recognised the Eknath Shinde faction as the Shiv Sena and ordered that the party name “Shiv Sena” and the bow and arrow symbol should be retained by it.

What are the statutory provisions for deciding the disputes relating to control of parties between rival groups in the party?

As per Section 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, “There may be rival groups of a recognised political party and each of them may claim to be that party. Then, the Commission may decide that one such rival section is that recognised party. The decision of the Commission shall be binding.”

Using the power under this Section, the ECI applies the test of majority support among the members of the “organisational and legislature wings” of the party to decide the dispute.

In its very first test in 1969, EC had used this formula. This was upheld by the Supreme Court in its judgement in Sadiq Ali v. Election Commission of India, 1971 and in several subsequent judgments.

What was the basis of ECI judgement in Shiv Sena case?

The Commission relied on the test of majority. The Shinde faction was able to prove that it had the support of a majority of MLAs and MPs.

The EC found that it could not rely on the test of majority in the organisational wing of the party as claims of numerical majority by both factions were not satisfactory.

As per EC, the “Test of Party Constitution” could not be relied upon. The party had not submitted a copy of its amended constitution in 2018 and the document had become more undemocratic after amendment.

What is the significance of inner-party democracy in regard to this case?

In the Shiv Sena order, the EC underlines the lack of inner-party democracies in political parties. It said it was the root cause of many of the cases that came before it.

The Representation of People Act requires that political parties have a written constitution. They should submit an undertaking stating that the constitution is democratic and promotes inner-party democracy.

The present Shiv Sena debacle is an important lesson to all the other parties of India.

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