PIL against Opposition alliance’s ‘INDIA’ name: What does the Emblems and Names Act say?

PIL against Opposition alliance’s ‘INDIA’ name: What does the Emblems and Names Act say?

Context- Delhi High Court has sought responses from the Centre, the Election Commission of India (ECI), and an alliance of 26 opposition parties in a public interest litigation (PIL) against these parties’ use of the acronym I.N.D.I.A. (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance).

(Credits- Consumers Affairs Ministry)

The PIL has contended that the use of the acronym violates provisions of The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

What is this case?

  • The PIL has been filed by social worker Girish Bharadwaj against the formation of an “alliance using the name INDIA”. The plea seeks directions to the parties prohibiting them from using the acronym, and a direction to the Centre and ECI to take action against them.
  • Bharadwaj has said he is aggrieved by the ECI’s inaction against the 26 parties in the alliance, and that by “dragging” the name of the country
  • According to the plea, this “created confusion in the mind of common people that the upcoming general election of 2024” will be fought “between political parties or between alliance and our country”.
  • Bharadwaj has said he sent a representation to the ECI on July 19, but the panel had taken no action. According to the petitioner, the acronym could lead to “political hatred” and eventually “political violence”.
  • Importantly, the plea states that naming the alliance I.N.D.I.A. is barred under Sections 2 and 3 of The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

What is the 1950 Act?

  • The Act was passed on March 1, 1950, to “prevent the improper use of certain emblems and names for professional and commercial purposes”. Section 2 of the Act defines emblem as “any emblem, seal, flag, insignia, coat-of-arms, or pictorial representation specified in the Schedule”. “Name” includes “any abbreviation of a name”.
  • Section 3 of the Act prohibits the “improper use of certain emblems and names”. It stipulates that except in “such cases and under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government”, no person shall “use or continue to use, for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trademark or design, any name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation”.

What powers are exercised by the Centre under this Act?

  • Section 4 prohibits the registration of certain companies by a “competent authority” (an authority competent under law to register any company, firm, or other body of persons, or any trademark, design, or grant of patent) if it bears a title containing “any name or emblem” in contravention of Section 3.
  • If any question arises before such an authority as to whether any emblem falls under the ones specified in the Schedule, the authority may refer the question to the Centre, following which the latter’s decision will be final.
  • Any person who violates the provisions of Section 3 of the 1950 Act “shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees”.
  • However, no prosecution for any offence punishable under this Act “shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or of any officer authorized in this behalf by general or special order of the Central Government”.
  • Thus, even the competent authority’s power to initiate prosecution is subject to the Centre’s approval.
  • Besides this, the Centre’s power has been extended to amending the Act’s Schedule under Section 8. “The Central Government may, by notification in the Gazette, add to or alter the Schedule, and any such addition or alternation shall have effect as if it had been made by this Act,” the provision states.
  • The government also has the power to make rules “to fulfil the objectives of this Act”, which will be published in the Official Gazette, Section 9 states.

What does the Act’s “Schedule” say?

  • The 1950 Act’s Schedule has been amended repeatedly. As of date, it prohibits the improper usage of the name, emblem, or official seal of the Government of India (GOI) or of any state, the World Health Organisation (WHO), or the United Nations Organisation (UNO).
  • It also bars such usage of the national flag, the Prime Minister, the President, and the Governor’s seal, name, and emblem. Besides this, using names, emblems, or seals of historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Indira Gandhi is also prohibited.

Conclusion-  Item 7 of the Act’s Schedule shows that any name that suggests or is “calculated to suggest” the Indian government’s or a state’s patronage or a “connection with any local authority, corporation, or body” established by the government under any law in force for the time being will amount to “improper use” under the legislation.

Syllabus- GS-2; Laws

Source- Indian Express