The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed Samata Party’s plea challenging the October 10 decision of the Election Commission to allot ‘flaming torch’ as poll symbol to ‘Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)’ for the November 3 Andheri East Assembly bypoll.
A single-judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Narula held that Samata Party “failed to demonstrate” that they had a “vested right” in the symbol as the party was derecognised in 2004. Samata Party was founded in 1994 by former defence minister late George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar (current Bihar CM) as an offshoot of the Janata Dal. Uday Mandal is the current president of the party.
The counsel for Samata Party, Kamlesh Kumar Mishra, said that since the party had contested polls on the symbol in 2014, it was incumbent upon the EC to issue a notification before making ‘flaming torch’ a free symbol and allotting it to any other party.
He further argued that on October 12, the party president had made a representation to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commission, seeking to withdraw the decision to allot the symbol “reserved” for Samata Party.
“Since the petitioner lost the status of a recognised party in 2004, the right, if any, on the symbol in question would have lapsed after expiry of six years in terms of clause 10A of the Election Symbol Order. In such circumstances, the petitioner does not have a right over the symbol. If in the year 2014 the petitioner did contest election, that claim does not give a right in its favour in respect of the symbol in question,” the court said.
The clause provides a concession to candidates set up by an unrecognised party which was earlier recognised as a national or state party. The EC argued that even in terms of this clause, the concession to Samata party does not exist in 2022.
Appearing for the EC, Sidhant Kumar submitted that there was no requirement for the EC to issue a notification, stating that the ‘flaming torch’ was a free symbol.
Samata Party was granted recognition on October 24, 1994 and had contested the 2014 general elections on the ‘flaming torch’ symbol. However, it contested 2020 elections on a different symbol.
On October 8, the EC had asked Shiv Sena’s warring Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde factions not to use the ‘bow and arrow’ symbol till the dispute is resolved. On October 10, the EC allotted ‘flaming torch’ as the poll symbol to the Thackeray camp.