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The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Delhi poll panel whether it intends to give a common symbol to the political parties like Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India, which are registered but unrecognised. “Whether the state election commission intends to give a common symbol to registered but unrecognised parties. Whether you (poll panel) have written any letter to the authorities concerned in this regard seeking to change the rule?” Justice Hima Kohli asked the Delhi State Election Commission.
The court posed the query to the commission after senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Swaraj India, submitted that a letter has been written to the Delhi government to consider amending the rules for allotment of common symbols to registered but unrecognised political parties. Bhushan made the submission during arguments on a plea challenging the commissions’s decision not to allot a common symbol to Swaraj India to contest the upcoming MCD polls.
Taking note of the submission, the court asked the poll panel’s counsel Sumeet Pushkarna to revert to its query by Friday. The parties have concluded their argument on the issue in which the poll panel claimed that it has not “discriminated” against Swaraj India by not allotting it a common symbol to contest the upcoming MCD election.
The commission was responding to Swaraj India’s claim that non-allotment of a common symbol to a registered party amounted to discrimination as the Aam Aadmi Party was granted such a relief when it had contested for the first time. “It violates Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution of India,” Bhushan had submitted on Wednesday.
Swaraj India has sought quashing of the panel’s March 14, 2017 notification and an April 2016 order which said the nominees of such parties would be treated as independent candidates for allotment of symbols. Swaraj India was floated in October last year by Yadav and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who were expelled from the AAP after they questioned Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership.
The party, registered by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in February 2017, has contended that the Delhi symbols order was “wholly illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and selective, destroying the very fairness of the proposed electoral process itself”.
It has said that providing it a common symbol will create a level playing field among all the political parties, whether recognised or not, and ensure free and fair election. It has also challenged the February 21, 2017 and March 7, 2017, orders of the poll panel declining the party’s request for a common symbol.
The party has contended that the panel rejected its request for a symbol despite a provision in the ECI rules to provide a common symbol to a registered but unrecognised political party like Swaraj India, which is set to make its election debut in the April 23 MCD polls. The party said that the ECI’s Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order allows newly registered political parties to have a common symbol for all their candidates for contesting their first election.
The party has claimed that states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala, Sikkim and Tripura follow the rule.