Tamil Nadu

HC to examine ECI decision on allotting permanent symbols

The Madras High Court on Monday decided to examine whether it was fair on the part of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to allot permanent election symbols to recognised political parties alone and deny such a benefit to the registered but unrecognised political parties.

The court directed the ECI to file its counter affidavit to a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

First Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made it clear that it would not be possible to decide the issue before the Assembly elections scheduled to be held in the State on April 6.

However, stating that it could be decided with respect to future elections, the Bench instructed ECI counsel Niranjan Rajagopalan to make sure that a counter affidavit was filed within six weeks and granted two more weeks for the petitioner party to file a rejoinder to it.

Tamizhaga Murpokku Makkal Katchi had filed the case to declare paragraphs 5,8,9,10,10A,10B, 11 and 12 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 to be in violation of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.

The petitioner’s counsel K. Sakthivel contended that allotting a permanent symbol to one set of political parties and denying it to another set of parties amounted to defying the principle of ensuring a level-playing field during the polls.

He pointed out that the practice of allotting election symbols began after Independence because a majority of the Indian voters were illiterates and therefore it was felt that a unique symbol would help the voters in identifying their choice of candidates. However, now that the literacy rate in the country had increased to 84% from 12% in 1947, there was absolutely no need for allotment of symbols to select parties, under the nomenclature of recognised political parties, he contended. The counsel also claimed that many other countries had dispensed with the practice of allotting symbols and instead started using the names of candidates and the parties to which they belong on the ballot papers.

‘Psychic relationship’

“Recognised parties with permanent symbols create a psychic relationship with the voters by registering it in their subconscious mind and it affects freedom of voting as well as the principle of ensuring a level-playing field to all parties that contest elections irrespective of being recognised or not,” he said.

He also accused the recognised political parties of glorifying the permanent symbols allotted to them and making the voters to blindly follow such glorification without assessing the weightage of individual candidates on the fray. He also alleged that the party in power ends up promoting such permanent symbols using public funds and government machinery. This was nothing but exerting undue influence and would amount to corrupt practice under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, he claimed.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 11:40:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-to-examine-eci-decision-on-allotting-permanent-symbols/article34023891.ece

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