New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Election Commission to make “all endeavour to ensure” allotment of a common symbol, from among 198 free symbols, to the 59 candidates of the T.T.V. Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) party.
The 59 candidates in question are contesting 40 seats for the Lok Sabha in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, and 19 for the by-elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
Directing a common symbol be ensured for AMMK candidates whose list was given to the apex court, the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said it was necessary to “ensure a level playing field” in the Lok Sabha elections and Assembly by-elections.
“The Election Commission of India on due and proper satisfaction that the candidates named in the document … want to contest the election under any one common symbol, will make all endeavour to ensure that in the forthcoming elections … the aforesaid candidates be allotted any one particular free symbol,” the court said in its order.
The allotment of the common symbol to Dhinakaran’s AMMK would on the due satisfaction of the Election Commission, it said, but however, made it clear that the candidates fielded by the AMMK would be treated, for all purposes, as Independent candidates.
“We also make it clear that in the event any of the candidates … to be elected, such candidate will be counted as an Independent candidate and not belonging to any political party for all purposes including for the purposes of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law).”
The court also clarified that the order could not be read to mean, in any way, recognition of the “group, or any part thereof, as a political party registered or unregistered, which decision the Election Commission of India alone would take as and when required”.
The court order came as senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the AMMK be allotted “pressure cooker” as a common symbol, citing the Constitution’s Article 324 (requirement of free and fair elections).
During more than an hour long hearing, the court repeatedly told Sibal and Singhvi how could the court pass an order contrary to the the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the guidelines issued by the Election Commission requiring the registration of a party with it for allocation of common symbol.
“You knew your status. You knew Section 29A. You could have approached the Election Commission for registration. You could have done in last one day. You missed the chance. Why do you think we adjourned the case yesterday? You did not understand,” CJI Gogoi said, telling Dhinakaran that “this anarchy you have brought upon yourself..”
The allotment of common symbol was opposed by the Election Commission, which cited the satisfaction of procedural requirements before a group or political party is granted registration and allotted a common symbol.
The AMMK’s plea for common symbol was also opposed by the AIADMK which said that the rival faction had initially tried to usurp the party and its “two leaves” symbol, but after failing to do so, was trying to take the court route for getting recognition and a common symbol.
Appearing for the AIADMK, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi described the AMMK as an “amorphous group with amorphous name”, contending that if the party had not been founded, “where is the question of allotting common symbol.”
Expelled from the AIADMK in August 2017, Dhinakaran launched the AMMK in March last year.