SC to EC: Common symbol to TTV & Sasikala's candidates

SC to EC: Common symbol to TTV & Sasikala's candidates

The Supreme Court on Tuesday told the Election Commission to allot a symbol common to all candidates put up by T T V Dhinakaran and V K Sasikala faction of AIADMK in 39 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry.

The top court, however, said if any candidate is elected, he or she will be treated as independent as the faction was still not a registered political party.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi rejected their plea for the common symbol of 'pressure cooker' with which Dhinakaran won the R K Nagar by-poll, once represented by TN CM J Jayalalithaa. 

"The claim made by Dhinakaran for the exclusive use of 'pressure cooker' symbol for his candidates can't be acknowledged in view of Section 29 A of the Representation of People Act and guidelines issued by the Election Commission," the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said.

The top court ordered for allotment of a common symbol as a measure of "level playing field".

It, however, clarified that the allotment of a common symbol would not amount to recognition of the group led by Dhinakaran and Sasikala as a political party.

Notably, Tuesday is the last date for filing nomination papers for first phase of Lok Sabha polls on April 11.

During the hearing, the court repeatedly pointed out to senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for Dhinakaran and Sasikala, the group was given 'pressure cooker' symbol as an interim arrangement.

"Under Section 29 A of the Representation of People Act, if your group is not registered, how can we diret the EC to give symbol of pressure cooker," the bench asked.

Sibal said the EC has a power to maintain level playing field. "To register as a political party means giving up the claim to the AIADMK," he said.

The top court, for its part, pointed out two leaves symbol issue was over on March 15 when it decided to confine the matter to allotment of a common symbol. 

"Only limited scope of the matter is allotment of pressure cooker. Your claim to 'two leaves' is closed. Pressure cooker was given to you as an interim arrangement. You and your followers can get it as individual but not to your group," the bench said.

The court also questioned the counsel why they did not register as a political party. 

To this, Sibal responded it takes months for registering as a political party.

"Don't ask us to pass orders contrary to Section 29 A," the bench said.

Sibal then said we undertake to apply. Please give me some interim arrangement. I have got 20 MLAs and 3 MPs.

"Have you approached the EC? Power of granting recognition is with the EC. Suppose your registration is declined. How will put the clock back," the bench asked.

On repeated pleas for interim protection, the bench agreed, "In reality, after all people get recognised by symbols only. Having 50 different symbols would ruin his chances."

Senior Mukul Rohatgi, appearing EPS and OPS faction which got recognised as AIADMK, asked, "How can interim order be granted for a common symbol when there is no registered party?"

Also appearing for them, senior advocate K V Vishwanathan said, it will destroy the entire apple cart, there are different provisions vis-a-vis independents and candidates put up by a political party. There is no countermanding of polls in death of independent candidate and there is no application of anti-defection laws on them.

EC's counsel Amit Sharma opposed the plea for allotment of common symbol, saying it would create difficulty for the poll panel. It takes minimum 30 days to allot a symbol. 

The bench, however, said, "In interest of fair poll, you can allot them symbol."

Dhinakaran had this month floated a new party 'Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam' after his rival E K Palaniswami-O Panneerselvam faction was declared as the 'real' AIADMK party with ‘two leaves’ election symbol.

Dhinakaran and Sasikala challenged validity of the February 28 Delhi High Court judgment which upheld the Election Commission decision to recognise the rival E K Palaniswami-O Panneerselvam faction as the 'real' AIADMK party worthy of the ‘two leaves’ election symbol.

In their plea, Dhinakaran and Sasikala sought a stay on the EC's decision of November 2017 to allot his rival group the ‘two leaves’ symbol.

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