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HC seeks Centre, Delhi govt, EC replies on plea to de-recognise AAP for using public money on Ganesh Chaturthi

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday sought response of the Centre, Delhi government and Election Commission (EC) on a plea seeking de-recognition of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleging that it promoted Ganesh Chaturthi using public money which is contrary to the Constitution of a secular country.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Amit Bansal made it clear that it was issuing notices to the Centre, Delhi government and EC and not to the Chief Minster and other ministers of the state.

The counsel for the authorities sought time to seek instructions and file replies after which the court listed the matter for further hearing on November 8.

Petitioner and advocate M L Sharma said he was seeking direction to de-recognise AAP as a political party and remove Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other ministers from the Constitutional office due to alleged deliberate breach of the Constitution and the Representation of People’s Act in the interest of general public.

The plea was opposed by senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing Delhi government, saying it was a totally motivated and mischievous petition, coloured as a public interest litigation (PIL) and needs to be dismissed with heavy costs.

He also said the 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 had merely requested the media to cover the celebration for citizens’ participation from their residences.

Mehra said government facilitating religious celebrations is not new and it is done every time during the Kumbh Mela and Amarnath Yatra, and it is the solemn duty of the state to protect public health.

The petition has also sought to declare that religious ceremony 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 also sought to declare this act as illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The plea said the AAP-led Delhi government organised Ganesh Chaturthi event on September 10 which was broadcast live on television channels and said 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 by using public money, it said.

The high court had earlier dismissed Sharma’s plea seeking to declare as illegal the Delhi government’s move of organising Ganesh Chaturthi from state treasury and releasing advertisement, saying the petition was filed hurriedly and without doing proper homework and granted him liberty to file a fresh plea with proper averments.

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