: The Madras High Court will conduct a joint hearing on writ petitions filed by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over the presence of ‘Two Leaves’ symbols on buses and water bottles.

DMK Treasurer M.K. Stalin had filed a petition seeking a direction to the Election Commission (EC) to cover Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s photograph and the AIADMK symbol printed on government property, including small buses and water bottles sold in the name of “Amma mineral Water.”

While the matter was pending before a single judge, the EC had sent a communication to the Chief Electoral Officer, suggesting that the “painting of leaves resembling AIADMK symbol appearing on small buses plying in Chennai may be suitably covered so that it does not become mobile advertisements for that party’’.

Last week, AIADMK general secretary also filed a writ petition challenging the communication relating to the direction on the painting of leaves on small buses in Chennai.

The party contended that there was no similarity between the painting on the buses and the party’s symbol.

When the First Bench comprising acting Chief Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam took up the case for hearing on Monday, R. Muthukumaraswamy, senior counsel appearing for AIADMK, said that the EC’s order was passed without granting an opportunity to the party to be heard.

G. Rajagopalan, senior counsel for EC, said that the AIADMK had no locus standi to challenge the communication since the buses are owned by the State government. The State government has not filed any petition.

Defending the decision of the EC, Mr. Rajagopalan said, “Since model code of conduct is in force, we have duty to ensure free and fair elections and to ensure level playing field.”

Mr. Justice Agnihotri orally observed, “These buses have been running already for past three months. Why did this issue come up now?”

R. Viduthalai, senior counsel, drew the attention of the court to the fact that the writ petition filed by the DMK treasurer was pending before Justice T. Raja.

After hearing submissions of counsel, the Bench directed the registry to club the petitions filed by AIADMK and DMK together and said the cases would be heard together on March 20.

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