A political party, especially a registered but unrecognised one, cannot claim an election symbol as a matter of right, the Delhi state election commission (SEC) told the Delhi High Court on Monday. The commission was arguing against a petition filed by the newly-constituted Swaraj India party, which had challenged the SEC’s decision to deny it a common election symbol. The party, spearheaded by former AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, is all set to make its debut in the upcoming MCD polls on April 22.
Counsel for the party Prashant Bhushan said the absence of a common symbol dispensed with the possibility of a level playing field, and that the SEC’s order — being merely administrative — could be revised. However, commission standing counsel Sumeet Pushkarna said the party’s request for a common symbol had been rejected twice but it had still approached the court. “There can be no major policy change in the decision to allot symbols, more so, when the model code of conduct is in force,” he told the court of Justice Hima Kohli.
Producing a campaign poster of the party as evidence — which prominently displayed the party’s leader along with a candidate — the counsel said it was not a case where voters would be unable to differentiate between parties in the absence of a common symbol.
“The relevant provisions of the Constitution clearly state that any amendments in the provisions pertaining to allotment of symbols could be done only by the Centre,” he added.
The Supreme Court, in two separate verdicts, had also established the Election Commission of India’s primacy vis-a-vis allotment of symbols. So there was no question of a “concession” to the party for providing it a common symbol, Pushkarna said. “While the party had challenged the commission’s order dated April 5, 2016, it was yet to contest the revised order of March 14, 2017,” he said. The party then sought an adjournment till Tuesday so that it could amend its petition, which was granted by the court.
Meanwhile, the government counsel said Swaraj India was circulating press releases claiming that the SEC had colluded with AAP to deny them a common symbol. The court has restrained it from making such claims.