V. N. Khare, J. -
(1.)The foremost question that arises in this group of appeals is whether the Election Commission of India under S. 29-A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') has power to de-register or cancel the registration of a political party on the ground that it has called for hartal by force, intimidation or coercion and thereby violated the provisions of the Constitution of India.
(2.)The aforesaid question has arisen out of the directions issued by the High Court of Kerala on the writ petitions filed for enforcement of decision in the case of Communist Party of India (Marxist) vs. Bharat Kumar and others AIR (1998) SC 184 wherein it was held that "there is a distinction between 'bundh' and 'hartal'. A call for a bundh involves coercion of others into towing the lines of those who called for the bundh and that the act was unconstitutional, since it violated the rights and liberty of other citizens guaranteed under the Constitution".
(3.)In the writ petitions filed before the High Court it was alleged that despite the law having been declared by the Supreme Court that calling of a bundh is unconstitutional, the political parties in the State of Kerala continued to call bundth under the name and cover of hartal. It was prayed that direction be issued to the government of Kerala for taking appropriate measures to give effect to the declaration of law by the Supreme Court in the case of Communist Party of India (supra). The High Court from time to time issued orders and in compliance thereof, the Chief Secretary as well as Director General of Police issued necessary orders, but such directions proved ineffective and the political parties continued to give call for bundh in the name of hartal. It was also alleged that some of the writ petitioners submitted representations to the Election Commission of India for taking necessary proceedings against the registered political parties for de-registration as they had contravened the provisions of the Constitution, but no action has been taken by the Election Commission in that regard. In one of the writ petitions one of the reliefs sought for with which we are concerned in this group of appeals, was to issue a direction to the Election Commission of India to take action against the registered political parties for violation of their undertaking that they will abide by the Constitution. In nutshell, the case of the writ petitioners before the High Court was that by holding a hartal and enforcing it by force, threat and coercion, there is the performance of an unconstitutional act and one of the clear and definite ways of preventing such unconstitutional activity on the part of political parties registered under the Representation of the People Act is to take steps for their de-registration on the ground of violation of the Constitution of India.