The Election Commission told the Bombay High Court yesterday that it would de-recognise political parties which use children in election campaign or poll-related work.

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“We cannot cancel registration of political parties, but we are empowered to de-recognise by freezing their symbols if they violate laws,” EC said in an affidavit filed before a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka.

Senior counsel Pradeep Rajgopal said the Election Commission had sent two letters to all political parties in May 2013 and September 2014, asking them not to use minors in campaign or poll-related work as this was strictly prohibited and would invite action.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking a ban on children being engaged in election work or campaigning. After hearing arguments, the bench admitted the petition for final hearing. On the previous occasion, the bench had observed that this was a serious issue and prima facie it appears that the existing rules do not provide a ban on children being engaged in such activities. It asked the EC and government to look into the issue and make a provision to stop children’s participation in electioneering.

The court had also suggested that the EC amend the standard rules of conduct in order to stop children from participating in poll campaigns conducted by political parties. The standard rules of conduct are guidelines framed by the government for political parties during electioneering.

The petition, filed by Pune resident Chetan Bhutada, enclosed several photographs of children holding placards and flags, and raising slogans. The photos pertained to the campaign conducted by various political parties in the state.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Sriram Choudhari, argued that children below 14 years were roped in for election campaigns, thereby violating the provisions of the Child Labour Act.

When the court asked what would be done if children were used for campaigning by independent candidates, the EC said it would file an additional affidavit for the same. The matter was adjourned for two weeks.