The Supreme Court asked the Election Commission to respond on the “limited question” raised by Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran on whether his faction can continue using the common symbol ‘pressure cooker’ for the upcoming elections.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is hearing a challenge raised by Mr. Dhinakaran against a Delhi High Court judgment upholding an Election Commission of India (ECI) decision to recognise the rival E.K. Palaniswami-O. Panneerselvam faction as the “real” All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party worthy of the ‘two leaves’ election symbol.
“So it is P (Palaniswami) and P (Panneerselvam) now, eh? You are out, is it not?” Chief Justice Gogoi asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Mr. Dhinakaran.
Mr. Sibal said he is only on a limited prayer to use the common symbol. “I should be allowed to fight the elections on the common symbol,” Mr. Sibal submitted.
To this, initially, the CJI said he should move the Election Commission. But Mr. Sibal said it was the court which had, in a recent order on February 7, allowed him the interim relief to use the common symbol.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the Palaniswami-Panneerselvam group, said “I am the real two leaves. You (Dhinakaran) cannot get a common symbol. He (Dhinakaran) has floated a party and is even using our name.”
The court ordered the Commission to reply on the request made by Mr. Dhinakaran for the common symbol and scheduled the case for March 25.
Mr. Dhinakaran has challenged the February 28 judgment of the high court as erroneous and sought an ex-parte order to stay the verdict till his petition in the apex court is decided.
He also wants the apex court to freeze the implementation of the ECI decision of November 2017 to allot his rival group the ‘two leaves’ symbol.
The special leave petition argued that the rival group tinkered with the constitution of the party and “any alteration in basic structure of the party constitution would render the party a new being”. Mr. Dhinakaran contended that both the ECI and the high court failed to consider the test of adherence to the party constitution.
He questioned how a faction, which has attempted to amend the basic rules and regulations of the AIADMK, could be recognised as the true heirs of the party.
The petition contended that Mr. Dhinakaran had shown ‘material facts’ to prove that he had the support of the rank and file of the AIADMK party. Whereas the rival leaders, by their own admission, had said they had support of only 11 MLAs out of 134 and support of 12 MPs out of 50.
On the other hand, Mr. Dhinakaran had produced an affidavit of support of 122 MLAs and 37 MPs and 1,912 out of 2,040 General Council members. A person claiming to be the party must show sizeable support on his side, the petition said.
He dismissed rivals’ claim of “subversion of rules” whereby V.K. Sasikala (VKS) was alleged to have usurped the post of General Secretary and the control of the party. He said this claim was not supported by fact or evidence. Besides, former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa was also appointed the general secretary in a similar fashion, Mr. Dhinakaran claimed.
“VKS was appointed as general secretary on the basis of a resolution moved and supported by the respondents. Further, there was precedent in the party of similar appointment when Late Dr Jayalalitha was appointed in similar fashion,” the petition said.