Retaining symbols for the next election, only for recognised political parties- Not Discriminatory; Delhi HC [Read Judgment]

Retaining symbols for the next election, only for recognised political parties- Not Discriminatory; Delhi HC [Read Judgment]

The High Court of Delhi in Milan Gupta v State Election Commission declared that the Election Commission of India is empowered to issue Symbols Order in exercise of power of superintendence, direction and control of elections and has not issued the Symbols Order as a delegate of any other authority.

This Petition was filed seeking mandamus to the respondent State Election Commission (SEC), NCT of Delhi to allot a free symbol to the petitioner for contesting the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections in 2012.

Milan Gupta intended to contest the ward elections to MCD as an independent candidate but was handicapped to campaign without an election symbol.

Mr. Gupta stated that, “The Rules of ECI do not provide for an allotment of symbols to parties other than a National or State Party registered with ECI which is a violation of Article 19(c) of the Constitution of India guaranteeing the freedom of association. Large National Parties, having reserved symbols, were at an advantage over the independent candidates.”

SEC contended stating, “As per the scheme of the statute relating to Election Laws in India, the registration and recognition of political parties is the prerogative of the ECI and symbols are recognised for recognised parties only.”

SEC also drew attention to Rule 15 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Election of Councillors) Rules, 2012 requiring the SEC to recognise the parties and adopt the symbols and to Rule 24 of the Election of Councillors Rules to contend that there is no provision to allot a reserved symbol or even a free symbol to other candidates including independents, in anticipation of the elections, to enable campaigning as recognised parties do.

The court placed reliance on Subramanian Swamy v Election Commission of India rejecting the contention that providing the symbols and reserving them for the recognised political parties alone amounted to an undemocratic act.

“The petitioner thus cannot be heard to make any grievance with respect to being discriminated against or being at a disadvantage in comparison with recognised political parties on the said count.”

Mr. Justice Rajiv Sahai further reasoned that “An election petition is not an action at Common Law, nor in equity; it is a statutory proceeding to which neither the Common Law nor the principles of Equity apply but only those rules which the statute makes and applies.”

Moreover, nowhere in the MCD Act is there any reference to recognised political party or to allocation of symbols for contesting an election. MCD Act vests the conduct of the elections absolutely in the SEC, subject only to the other provisions mentioned hereinabove.

Election Commission of India has been clothed with plenary powers in the matter of conducting of elections, which includes the power to allot symbols to candidates during elections.

The reservation claimed by the petitioner is also held to be contrary to the Election of Councillors Rules which provide only for the free symbols being notified at the time of each election.

Read the Judgment here.