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HomeNews ReportsCan the name 'INDIA' be registered as a political alliance? As the opposition launches...

Can the name ‘INDIA’ be registered as a political alliance? As the opposition launches a PR campaign, here is what the Emblems and Names Act says

The law states that anything from the list cannot be used to register any organization, institution, company or group. The trademark or design cannot be one of the types described above, for example, Ashoka Chakra or the National Flag, and cannot be patented. Furthermore, the decision of the Central Government will be final in this.

On 18th July, 26 opposition parties formed an alliance to compete with Lok Sabha Elections 2024 against NDA. They named the alliance’ INDIA (Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance)’, bidding goodbye to UPA during the meeting held in Bengaluru, Karnataka. While opposition parties are rushing to take credit for coming up with the acronym, the main question is whether the country’s name can be used this way.

Criticism on social media

The name of the alliance has received a sharp reaction on social media. Advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha called upon the Election Commission of India to act on the alliance’s name. He wrote, “The Emblems And Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 prohibits Opposition from using “INDIA” as the name of their alliance.”

Bombay High Court Advocate Ashutosh J Dubey, head of BJP Maharashtra Social Media-Legal & Advisory Department, wrote to ECI and registered his objection over the alliance’s name. He wrote, “I have registered an objection to the Election Commission of India regarding using the INDIA name for political gain to disrespect the nation’s dignity. I trust in the Election Commission of India’s commitment to fostering fair and transparent elections. I believe that your intervention in this matter will help maintain the dignity of our nation and preserve the democratic principles on which our country stands.”

Registering ‘INDIA’ is going to be difficult

To understand the situation, it is essential to look at what the law says about using the country’s name in India. In case they have formed the alliance just for colloquial or conversational purposes, they may find a loophole to use it. However, if they plan to register it somehow, it will not be possible to do so.

The opposition parties announced that they would have the headquarters of the alliance in New Delhi. Suppose they are serious about using the alliance for campaigning. In that case, they have to register it in some way and launch a website along with social media handles in the coming days. Using the name ‘INDIA’ for these purposes will not be a cakewalk for them.

Registering a political party is different from forming an alliance

As per the law, to form a new political party in India, an application has to be submitted to Election Commission’s office ‘Nirvachan Sadan’. Upon receiving the application, the Election Commission examines it, and if it finds it appropriate, the party gets registered. An election symbol is also provided to the political party after registration. Unlike the political party, the alliance’s name does not require registration. For example, NDA, UPA, MVA or Mahagathbandhan are all alliances used in day-to-day political conversations, but they do not require government registration. Interestingly, we all talk about NDA and UPA extensively, but both alliances do not have a website. On the other hand, the main political parties in both alliances, i.e. BJP and Congress, have their own websites, respectively.

The law prohibits the use of ‘INDIA’

Returning to the newly formed alliance of the opposition parties, if they plan to register any institution, website, company or organisation with the name “INDIA”, they will face serious consequences. They have to add word(s) before or after the word ‘INDIA’ as, according to the constitution, it is the name of our country. To understand why they cannot register, it is essential to examine ‘THE EMBLEMS AND NAMES (PREVENTION OF IMPROPER USE) ACT of 1950‘.

Certain names, symbols, and marks cannot be registered per the law. There are 20 such entities listed in the Act that cannot be used for registration. Now, one may think there are India TV, NDTV India and Times of India, then what is the problem with the name of the alliance? You can register a name with ‘India’ in it, provided there are words before or after it. ‘India TV’ is okay to register, but a media house with the name ‘India’ is impossible. Similarly, you cannot register any name using the word ‘Bharat’. Furthermore, the Act prohibits registering any state mark or emblem of India.

The 20 names, symbols and marks that cannot be registered include seal of UN, WHO name, symbol or seal, National Flag of India, name, symbol or seal of the country of India or any of its state or government organisation, name, symbol or seal of President-Governor, any name that appears to belong to the govenrment or govenrment institutions, the name or picture of the President, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Raj Bhavan, the picture of Mahatma Gandi or any Prime Minister of India (can be used for calendars but its commercial use is prohibited), the name-sign of any government honour or medal, the name, sign or seal of the ‘International Civil Aviation Organisation’, the word ‘INTERPOL’, the name, emblem and seal of the ‘World Meterorological Organisation’, the name, symbol and seal of ‘Tuberculosis Association of India’, name, symbol and seal of ‘International Atomic Energy Agency’,names or their pictures like ‘Ashoka Chakra’ and ‘Dharma Chakra’,Parliament-Vidhan Sabha or any court’s name-picture-mark, ‘Ramakrishna Math’ or ‘Ramakrishna Mission’ name-mark, ‘Sharda Math’ or ‘Ramakrishna Sharda Mission’ name-mark, and name, symbol and seal of ‘Bharat Scouts and Guides’.

The law states that anything from the list cannot be used to register any organization, institution, company or group. The trademark or design cannot be one of the types described above, for example, Ashoka Chakra or the National Flag, and cannot be patented. Furthermore, the decision of the Central Government will be final in this.

The law also states that the word ‘Republic’ or ‘Sardar-e-Riyasat’ cannot be used for registration. This is why when Arnab Goswami announced ‘Republic’ as the name of his media house, he had to go to court. Arnab went with the name Republic Network for the media house, ‘Republic World’ for the English channel and ‘Republic Bharat’ for the Hindi channel.

Another fine example of such a case is the website India.com. For those who are unaware, the company’s name is ‘Indiadotcom Digital Pvt Ltd’, not just ‘INDIA’. India.com is one of the pre-2000s domain names. It was registered in 1997. The news portal that runs on the domain came into existence in 2011. That means the company might have acquired the domain name later.

Interestingly, when India started the .in registry in 2005, before it was open to the public, several domain names were reserved by the National Internet Exchange of India or NIXI, the government body that governs .in and its subsidiary domain names like .co.in etc. One such domain name was India.in. Even the Government of India does not use the domain for any purpose, and it has been kept as a dormant domain. You can check the complete list of reserved names by NIXI here.

While the chest-thumping over the new alliance and its name continued in the political arena, the opposition parties have a lot of work on, including deciding how they may use INDIA and, above all, who will be the face of the PM for Lok Sabha Elections 2024.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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