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Supreme Court To Examine Validity Of ECI’s ‘First-Come-First-Serve’ Rule To Allot Election Symbols To Unrecognised Parties

Supreme Court To Examine Validity Of ECI’s ‘First-Come-First-Serve’ Rule To Allot Election Symbols To Unrecognised Parties

The Supreme Court on Friday (March 15) issued notice in a SLP filed by the Tamil Nadu-based Political Party ‘Naam Tamilar Katchi’ challenging the ‘first-come-first-served’ criteria of allotting a free symbol to an unrecognized party under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

The petitioner had earlier approached the Delhi High Court challenging the provisions of the 1968 Order. The plea further sought striking down the allotment of the “Ganna Kisan” free election symbol to another unrecognized political party for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the State of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

It was the petitioner party’s case that being a registered (unrecognized) State party, it was not entitled to a reserved election symbol and that it was allotted the “Ganna Kisan” symbol for the elections held from 2019 to 2023.

The unrecognised party has challenged the vires of Explanation (iv) of Order 10B (B) of the Election Symbols Order. The said provision reads as :

[10B – Concession to candidates set up by registered (unrecognized) parties and to unrecognized parties which were earlier recognized parties more than 6 years back.

Explanation-

(iv) Allotment of common symbol under this paragraph shall be done on first-come-first-served‟ basis:

Provided that if applications of two or more parties giving preference for the same symbol are received in the Commission on the same date, then the question of allotment of the symbol to one of such parties shall be decided by draw of lots in such manner as may be directed by the Commission:

Provided further that if out of the two or more such parties giving preference for the same symbol whose applications are received on the same date, one party is such that it had been allotted the said symbol at the previous occasion in the State concerned and the other was not allotted that symbol in the previous election, then the symbol shall be allotted to the former:

Provided also that if out of the two or more such parties giving preference for the same symbol whose applications are received on the same date, both or all such parties had been allotted the said symbol on the previous occasion in the State concerned, and one among the parties is such that it has Member(s) elected to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned on the symbol for which preference has been given by the party, then the symbol shall be allotted to that party to the exclusion of the other parties

As per the impugned clauses, if applications of two or more parties giving preference for the same symbol are received in the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the same date, the question of allotment of the symbol to one of such parties is to be decided by draw of lots.

The bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, in the order, observed that despite utilizing a distinct emblem, ‘Ganna Kisan’ in prior national and State legislative elections, the party faces the threat of this emblem being allocated to Respondent no.2 (also an unrecognised party) owing to the principle of first-come-first-serve.

The second proviso which provides that if multiple parties desired the same symbol for the election on the same day, the party which was allotted the same symbol on a prior occasion would again get the benefit of its use.

The bench noted that due to the above proviso, the petitioner so far was able to fetch the benefit of using the symbol ‘Ganna Kisan’ in the general and state elections .

“Senior counsel submits that as a result of the operation of the second proviso, the petitioner who has been using the election symbol during the course of the general elections and the State Legislative Assembly would now lose the symbol in favour of the second respondent, which is also an unrecognized political party.”

On March 5, the Delhi High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora dismissed the plea, holding that admittedly, the application for allotment of the free symbol “Ganna Kisan” was filed by the other political party on December 17, 2023, at 10:01 A.M., whereas the petitioner party had filed it on January 09.

Therefore, the bench said that the allotment of a free symbol to the other party was in accordance with Explanation (iv) to Paragraph 10B (B) of the Election Symbols Order.

Senior Counsel Ms Haripriya Padmanaban appearing for the petitioner additionally sought an urgent stay of the impugned judgement. Acknowledging the urgency of the same, the court issued notice on the petition as well as the prayer for interim relief.

It was further directed that the Election Commission India shall also be served a notice of the present matter.

The petition will now be heard on April 1.

Title: NAAM TAMILAR KATCHI THROUGH ITS PRESIDENT v. ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA & ANR. SLP(C) No. 006017 – / 2024. (Live Law)

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