The Delhi High Court Tuesday granted time to the Centre and the city government to file replies to a plea seeking de-recognition of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for allegedly using public money for promoting the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in contravention of the Constitution of a secular country.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad granted six more weeks to the central and the state governments to file their counter affidavits.
The high court was informed that while the Election Commission has filed its reply to the petition, the two governments are yet to place on record their stand.
“The September 20, 2021 order of this court reveals that the respondents counsel were granted time to file replies. Respondents no. 1 and 2 have not filed their replies. They are granted six weeks time to do the needful,” the bench said.
The high court had on September 20, 2021 issued notices and sought the response of the Centre, Delhi government and the Election Commission (EC) to the petition.
The court had made it clear that it was issuing notices to the Centre, Delhi government and the EC and not to the hief minster and other ministers of the state.
Petitioner advocate M L Sharma said he was seeking direction to de-recognise the AAP as a political party and remove Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other ministers from the constitutional office due to ”deliberate breach” of the Constitution and the Representation of People Act in the interest of the general public.
The plea was earlier opposed by Delhi government counsel Rahul Mehra, who said it was a ”totally motivated and mischievous” petition, coloured as a public interest litigation (PIL) that needs to be dismissed with heavy costs.
He had also said a decision was taken to prevent religious congregations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the Delhi government had prohibited setting up of pandals to prevent overcrowding, the chief minister merely requested the media to cover the celebration for citizens who could participate in it from their homes.
He had contended the government facilitating religious celebrations is not new and it was done every time during the Kumbh Mela and Amarnath Yatra, and that it was the solemn duty of the State to protect public health.
The petition has said religious ceremonies or promotion or funding for religious work or trust in any manner by the State from the state treasury attracts sections 408 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of IPC. It has sought such actions of the State to be declared ”illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
The plea said the AAP-led Delhi government organised a Ganesh Chaturthi event on September 10, 2021 which was broadcast live on television channels and claimed in terms of the constitutional mandate laid down by the Supreme Court, the state cannot promote religious celebrations.
India is a secular country and no government can be seen indulging in religious activities while using public money, it said.
The high court had earlier dismissed Sharma’s plea for declaring as illegal the Delhi government’s act of organising Ganesh Chaturthi with funds from the state treasury and releasing advertisements, saying the petition was filed hurriedly and without doing proper homework. It had granted him liberty to file a fresh plea with proper averments.