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Can’t allot ‘pressure cooker’ symbol to TTV Dhinakaran led unregistered party, EC tells SC

New Delhi | The Election Commission told the Supreme Court on Monday that it can allot a common symbol of “pressure cooker” to an individual but not to an unregistered group led by former AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran and V K Sasikala in Tamil Nadu.

Dhinakaran told the apex court that the EC stand would force the candidates of AMMK party led by him to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on different symbols.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Dhinakaran, as to when is the last date of filing nominations for Lok Sabha polls.

Sibal replied that the last date of filing of nomination is Tuesday itself and if the party is not allotted the symbol its candidates will have to contest on different symbols.

He said that candidates of rival parties will win by default if a common symbol of ‘pressure cooker’ is not given to them.

The bench then asked the EC official to apprise it as to why a common symbol was not given to the AMMK party.

The official said that as per the rules a common symbol cannot be given to the AMMK party which was not a registered political party.

He said the election process has already started and it would be difficult to allot a common symbol.

“Where is your reply. You cannot just read from a piece of paper and say it cannot be given. Where are the reasons,” the bench said.

The official replied that the court had not asked the poll panel to file its reply.

The bench, which was visibly unsatisfied with the reply of poll panel official perused the March 15 order and said that court has issued a notice to the EC.

“We have issued a notice, Why did you not file a detailed reply to their plea. Shall we invite the election commission to file a reply? You file the affidavit in the course of the day. We will hear the case tomorrow,” the bench said.

On March 15, the apex court had agreed to hear a plea of Dhinakaran and Sasikala challenging a Delhi High Court order granting the ‘two leaves’ symbol to a faction led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.

The court had issued a notice to the Election Commission on the limited plea of Dhinakaran that they should be allowed to use ‘pressure cooker’ as a common symbol.

At the outset, Dhinakaran faction had claimed that EC is not giving them a common symbol despite a direction from the apex court to allot “pressure cooker’ as a common symbol to the party.

On February 28, the high court had dismissed the pleas of Dhinakaran and Sasikala challenging the EC order granting the ‘AIADMK’ name and the ‘two leaves’ symbol to the faction led by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, saying the figures showed the Palaniswami-led group “enjoyed a clear majority”.

It had upheld the EC decision of November 23, 2017, saying none of the grounds of challenge raised by the Dhinakaran-Sasikala faction were made out and there was “no infirmity” in the poll panel’s order allotting the party name and symbol to the group led by Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam.

After the high court order was pronounced, Dhinakaran and Sasikala had urged the court to direct the EC not to allot the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol to anyone during the next 15 days so that they have time to move the apex court and seek appropriate relief from there.

The EC, thereafter, had agreed not to allot the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol to anyone for next 15 days in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Dhinakaran had floated Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) after he and Sasikala were expelled from the Palaniswami-led AIADMK.

The symbol issue has been lingering since April 2017 and the verdict came as a shot in the arm for the Palanisami-led AIADMK ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The EC in March 2017 had given the ‘hat’ symbol to the Sasikala-Dhinakaran group after it froze the use of the ‘two leaves’ symbol to which the group led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam had also staked claim.

The Palaniswami-Panneerselvam faction had at the same time been granted the ‘electric pole’ symbol.

However, on November 23, 2017, the poll panel had ruled in favour of the Palaniswami-Panneerselvam faction by allotting the ‘two leaves’ symbol to them.

The symbol issue has been lingering since April 2017 in the aftermath of the announcement of the bypoll to Radha Krishnan Nagar constituency in Tamil Nadu following the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in December 2016.

Earlier, rival factions led by Sasikala and Panneerselvam had staked claim over the symbol. Palaniswami was then in the Sasikala camp. Later, a large number of legislators led by Palaniswami revolted against Sasikala.

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