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Election Commission's Power To Allot Symbols Challenged Before Allahabad High Court: EC Directed To Respond Within 6 Weeks

Sparsh Upadhyay
6 Jan 2021 3:41 AM GMT
Election Commissions Power To Allot Symbols Challenged Before Allahabad High Court: EC Directed To Respond Within 6 Weeks
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While entertaining a Public Interest Litigation, wherein the power of Election Commission to allot Election Symbol has been challenged, the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday (05th January) directed the Election Commission to file a counter to the petition within a period of six weeks. The Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha was hearing a plea challenging...

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While entertaining a Public Interest Litigation, wherein the power of Election Commission to allot Election Symbol has been challenged, the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday (05th January) directed the Election Commission to file a counter to the petition within a period of six weeks.

The Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha was hearing a plea challenging the validity of Paras-10, 10A and 10-B of the Symbol Order 1968 on several counts, inter alia, that these paras are in conflict with the provisions of Rule-10 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.

What does Rule 10 (4) of the Rules of 1961 state?

Rule 10 (4) of the Rules of 1961 states,

"At an election in a parliamentary or assembly constituency, where a poll becomes necessary, the returning officer shall consider the choice of symbols expressed by the contesting candidates in their nomination papers and shall, subject to any general or special direction issued in this behalf by the Election Commission, —

(a) allot a different symbol to each contesting candidate in conformity, as far as practicable, with his choice; and

(b) if more contesting candidates than one have indicated their preference for the same symbol decide by lot to which of such candidates the symbol will be allotted."

In this backdrop, the Plea states that the election symbols are not being allotted by the Returning Officer but the Commission itself and that is not inconsonance to the provisions of Rule 10 (4) of the Rules, 1961.

It has also been argued by the Petitioner that the term "Returning Officer" is defined under Section 21 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 and according to that, the Returning Officer is a person designated or nominated by the Election Commission but not the Election Commission itself.

"Conflict between Sub Rule-6 of Rule10 of the Rules, 1961 & para-17 of the Order of 1968"

Sub Rule-6 of Rule10 of the Rules, 1961 states,

"Every candidate or his election agent shall forthwith be informed of the symbol allotted to the candidate and be supplied with the specimen thereof by the Returning Officer."

According to the petitioner, the thrust of Sub-Rule-6 of the Rules aforesaid is that an election symbol is required to be disclosed at first instance by the Returning Officer to the contesting candidate or his election agent and not prior to that.

However, the concern of the Petitioner is that under para-17 of the Order of 1968, the Commission publishes the same (Election Symbol) prior to the date of allotment of symbols to the contesting candidate or its agent.

In response to this, the Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the Election Commission raised certain objections regarding maintainability of the instant petition on the basis of prayer clause of the petition and stated that the cause sought to be agitated is no more res integra in the light of certain judgments of the Apex Court.

However, looking to the issue involved, the Court deem it appropriate to have counter of the petition.

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It may be noted that in November 2020, the Allahabad High Court had issued notice on a PIL raising issues relating the 'misuse' of 'reserved election symbols' allotted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the contesting candidates.

A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Piyush Agrawal has granted time to the counsel appearing on behalf of ECI to examine the entire issue involved and file a counter to the same.

In the year 2019, the Lucknow Bench of the High Court had sought responses from all national parties to a petition challenging the use of "reserved election symbols" by political parties as their party logos.

Allahabad HC Asks National Political Parties To File Reply In Plea Challenging Use Of Election Symbols Post Elections

In that case, it was argued that as per Rule 5 of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, allotment of symbol to "contesting candidates" is only for participation in elections; such a symbol canot be permanently used by political parties as their party logo.

Case title - Shraddha Tripathi v. Election Commission Of India Thru Secy.Nirvachan Sadan Newde [P.I.L. CIVIL No. - 26259 of 2020]

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