The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Election Commission (EC) to make all efforts to ensure the allotment of a common symbol, from amongst the 198 free symbols, to 59 candidates of the T. T. V. Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) party.
The 59 candidates in question are contesting 40 seats for the Lok Sabha, and 19 for the by-elections to the state assembly.
Directing the Election Commission to ensure the allotment of a common symbol to AMMK candidates whose list was given to the apex court, the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said it was necessary to “ensure a level playing field” in the Lok Sabha elections and by-elections to 19 assembly seats.
The court said that allotment of the common symbol to Dhinakaran’s AMMK would on the due satisfaction of the Election Commission.
The court, however, made it clear that the candidates fielded by the AMMK would be treated for all the purposes as independent candidate not belonging to any political party.
The court also clarified that it’s order could not be read to mean in any way recognition of the group, or any part thereof, which decision the Election Commission would take. Of the 40 Lok Sabha seats 39 are in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry.
The court order came as senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singh argued that AMMK be allotted “Pressure Cooker” as a common symbol, citing the Constitution’s Article 324 requirement of free and fair elections.
The level playing field plea was opposed by the Election Commission, which cited the satisfaction of procedural requirements before a group or political party is granted registration and allotted a common symbol.
The AMMK plea for common symbol was opposed by the AIADMK which said that the rival faction had initially tried to usurp the party and its two leaves symbol, but after failing to do so, was trying to take the court route for getting recognition and common symbol.
Dhinakaran was expelled from the AIADMK in August 2017 and launched the AMMK in March last year.
Appearing for the AIADMK, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi described the AMMK as an “amorphous group with amorphous name”, contending that if the party had not been founded, “where is the question of allotting common symbol.”