The Supreme Court, however, directed the Election Commission (EC) to consider granting common free election symbol to the candidates of the Dhinakaran-led outfit for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and assembly by-elections in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also made it clear that its order asking the EC to consider granting common election symbol would not amount to granting recognition to his outfit as a political group and its candidates would be treated as Independents for all practical purposes.
The bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said that it was the duty and the rights of the Election Commission only to consider granting registration to Dhinakaran’s outfit as a political party and it will be done in due course by the poll panel.
The bench said that its directions to EC to consider granting common free symbol to the list of 59 candidates furnished before it by the outfit was passed to ensure level-playing field and free and fair elections.
As per the list given by the Dhinakaran group, they have named 40 candidates for parliamentary elections in Tamil Nadu (39) and Puducherry (one).
The Dhinakaran outfit has also given a list of 19 candidates for the Assembly by-elections on 19 seats in Tamil Nadu (18) and Puducherry (one).
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the EC told the court that a common symbol of pressure cooker cannot be given to the Dhinakaran-led group since they were not a registered political party.
The EC had on Monday told the apex court that it can allot a common symbol of “pressure cooker” to an individual but not to an unregistered group.
Dhinakaran had told the top court that the EC’s stand would force the candidates of his Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on different symbols.
The bench had asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Dhinakaran, as to when is the last date of filing nominations for Lok Sabha polls.
Sibal had replied that the last date of filing of nomination was Tuesday and if the party was not allotted the symbol, its candidates would have to contest on different symbols.
He had said that candidates of rival parties will win by default if a common symbol of ‘pressure cooker’ was 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.
The EC official had apprised the court that as per the rules a common symbol cannot be given to the AMMK, which was not a registered political party.
He had said the election process has already started and it would be difficult to allot a common symbol.
The bench, which asked for a detailed reply, was told by the official that the poll panel was not asked to file a response.
The bench, which was visibly unsatisfied with the reply of poll panel official, perused its March 15 order and said that court has issued notice to the EC.
On March 15, the apex court had agreed to hear a plea of Dhinakaran and V K Sasikala challenging a Delhi High Court order granting the ‘two leaves’ symbol to the AIADMK faction led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.
The court had issued notice to the EC on the limited plea of Dhinakaran that they be allowed to use ‘pressure cooker’ as a common symbol.
The Dhinakaran group had claimed that EC was 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 group 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 an 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 after he and Sasikala were expelled from the Palaniswami-led AIADMK.