The Madras High Court will pronounce orders on March 25 on a writ petition by the AIADMK challenging a portion of an Election Commission (EC)’s communication pertaining to the painting of leaves on small buses in Chennai.
The First Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice M.M. Sundresh, fixed the date for passing orders after hearing arguments of counsel.
When the matter came up, the Tamil Nadu CEO, Praveen Kumar, in his affidavit filed through the EC counsel, G. Rajagopalan, submitted that the Commission was of the view that since the AIADMK had the symbol of ‘two leaves,’ the painting of leaves on the small buses may cause confusion in the minds of the voters. Hence, to ensure a level playing field among all political parties and in the interest of free and fair elections, it was decided that the painting of leaves on government buses, which had been done at government cost, should be suitably covered during the currency of the model code of conduct.
In the communication dated March 10 to the Chief Electoral Officer, Tamil Nadu, the EC had said the painting of leaves resembling the AIADMK symbol on small buses in Chennai may be suitably covered so that it did not become mobile advertisements for that party.
Objecting to this clause, the AIADMK, represented by its general secretary, Jayalalithaa, filed the writ petition seeking to quash it. The petitioner contended that there were differences between the party symbol and the design on the Small Buses. The EC lacked jurisdiction to decide on any action which was done prior to the election notification issued on March 6.
The petitioner’s counsel, R. Muthukumarasamy, said the painting was not put up for the elections. It was done much prior to the issue of election notification. The EC’s jurisdiction applied only after the notification and the coming into force of the code of conduct.
Mr.Rajagopalan said the EC had taken a decision in the matter after photos and materials were placed before it.
The Advocate-General, A.L.Somayaji, said the painting of leaves on the buses had no resemblance to the party symbol. So the EC order was wrong.
The painting only depicted the eco-friendly nature of the vehicles.
The DMK’s counsel, R.Viduthalai, said there should be a level playing field among political parties in the election.