Insights into Editorial: How will EC decide on the party symbol row in SP?
The battle in Samajwadi party has shifted to Delhi with rival camps planning to approach Election Commission to claim control over the ‘cycle‘ symbol. The fight over party symbol in Samajwadi Party comes at a time when the Election Commission has announced poll dates.
Recognition and Reservation of Symbols:
According to certain criteria, set by the Election Commission regarding the length of political activity and success in elections, parties are categorised by the Commission as National or State parties, or simply declared registered-unrecognised parties. How a party is classified determines a party’s right to certain privileges, such as access to electoral rolls and provision of time for political broadcasts on the state-owned television and radio stations – All India Radio and Doordarshan – and also the important question of the allocation of the party symbol.
Party symbols enable illiterate voters to identify the candidate of the party they wish to vote for. National parties are given a symbol that is for their use only, throughout the country. State parties have the sole use of a symbol in the state in which they are recognised as such Registered-unrecognised parties can choose a symbol from a selection of ‘free’ symbols.
Under what authority does the EC decide disputes related to party symbols?
The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the EC to recognise political parties and allot symbols. Under Paragraph 15 of the Order, it can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.
What is the legal status of Paragraph 15?
Under Paragraph 15, the EC is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger. The Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971.
What aspects does the EC consider before recognising one group as the official party?
The ECI primarily ascertains the support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organisational wing and in its legislative wing.
How does the ECI establish a claim of majority in these wings?
The Commission examines the party’s constitution and its list of office-bearers submitted when the party was united. It identifies the apex committee(s) in the organisation and finds out how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants. For the legislative wing, the party goes by the number of MPs and MLAs in the rival camps. It may consider affidavits filed by these members to ascertain where they stand.
What ruling will the EC give after a definite finding?
The ECI may decide the dispute in favour of one faction by holding that it commands enough support in its organisational and legislative wings to be entitled to the name and symbol of the recognised party. It may permit the other group to register itself as a separate political party.
What happens when there is no certainty about the majority of either faction?
Where the party is either vertically divided or it is not possible to say with certainty which group has a majority, the EC may freeze the party’s symbol and allow the groups to register themselves with new names or add prefixes or suffixes to the party’s existing names.
What happens when rival factions settle their differences in future?
If reunited, the claimants may approach the EC again and seek to be recognised as a unified party. The EC is also empowered to recognise mergers of groups into one entity. It may restore the symbol and name of the original party.
It is unlikely, however, that the Election Commission would be able to resolve the dispute ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections. Now, the best option before the panel may to freeze the party symbol and provide ad-hoc recognition to the two factions under names similar to the parent party.