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Are parties misusing symbols, asks PIL

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‘Parties are openly violating the law by using symbols as their trademark to sell their ticket’

Have recognised political parties in India been illegally using election symbols all this while? Are they actually authorised to use election symbols reserved for them during and beyond the period of the elections?

These are some of the key questions raised in a public interest litigation plea filed in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court last week. Hearing the PIL, filed by Lucknow-based advocate Shraddha Tripathi, a Division Bench of Justices Devendra Kumar Arora and Ritu Raj Awasthi on May 27 issued notices to the Union Government and the Election Commission.

No notices to others

The court, however, said it did not propose to issue notices to other respondents in the prayer, the political parties — BJP, Congress, SP, BSP and the CPI.

In her petition, Ms. Tripathi sought interim relief praying that the court refrain the recognised political parties from the use of reserved symbols as they violated the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

She contended that a “symbol” was “reserved” for a recognised political party exclusively to be “allotted” to “contesting candidates set up by it” during a notified election and in the area where the elections are notified. A candidate cannot use a reserved symbol before he/she files his/her nomination papers, she said.

In her petition, Ms. Tripathi submitted that under Clause 4 of the 1968 Order, “Allotment of symbol is made in every contested election to a contesting candidate in accordance with the provisions of this order and different symbols shall be allotted to different contesting candidates at an election in the same constituency.”

However, she claimed, parties had been openly violating the law and were using symbols as their “trademarks” like “business houses” to “sell their tickets” in the name of reserved symbols.

This discriminated against the Independent candidates, and “violates the doctrine of Free and Fair elections and Article 14 [Right to Equality],” Ms. Tripathi said.

The petitioner also contending that the norms allow the symbols to be used exclusively by the “contesting candidates,” for a specific period during notified elections, not before or after.

“Recognised political parties have been misusing the symbols for their private purposes as their trademark. But the law prescribes that the symbols may be reserved in the name of parties but are allotted to the contesting candidates, only for the period of notified election, and not to any association [party],” Ms. Tripathi said.

RTI query filed

Ms. Tripathi had earlier sought information from the EC through a Right to Information (RTI) query if there was a provision allowing parties to use the symbol beyond the period of notified or contested election.

“There is no information available as to whether the symbol reserved for a political party can be used or not beyond the period of notified or contested election,” the EC response said. The Hindu has a copy of the RTI reply dated May 25.

The case is likely to be listed next on July 15.

‘Parties are openly violating the law by using symbols as their trademark to sell their ticket’

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