R.K Nagar bypolls: No interim relief for T.T.V. Dhinakaran over ‘hat’ symbol
New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday dismissed ousted AIADMK leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s plea to let him to use the ‘hat’ symbol for the R.K Nagar bypolls to be held on 21 December.
“There can be no interim relief at this stage…Returning officer has the jurisdiction”, said justice Indrameet Kaur while directing the Returning Officer decide independently, without being affected by any previous observation made by the Election Commission.
Counsel appearing for Dhinakaran, Kapil Sibal, argued the Election Commission’s interim order allotting the ‘hat’ symbol to the Dhinakaran-Sasikala faction of AIADMK for the April R.K Nagar by-poll, should remain in force. This order was passed earlier this year after AIADMK’s ‘two-leaves’ symbol was frozen by the Commission. Dhinakaran, who has been campaigning for eight months under the symbol of ‘hat’, would be denied a ‘level playing field’ in the December by-poll if a new symbol is allotted at this stage because for this election, people recognize ‘hat’ as Dhinakaran’s symbol, it was further argued.
Counsel for Election Commission, W.C. Chopra and counsel for chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Mukul Rohtagi maintained that the decision with respect to allotment of symbols lies with the Returning Officer, and not the court. Dhinakaran’s plea to grant ‘hat’ symbol is equivalent to reserving a ‘free symbol’ for an independent candidate which is legally untenable as only the Returning Officer has the power to allot one of the ‘free symbols’ to an independent candidate, it was argued. However, it was accepted that the ‘hat’ symbol may eventually be granted to Dhinakaran by the Returning Officer if there are no other nominations under the same symbol. In case of more than one nomination under the same symbol, the Returning Officer conducts a draw of lots.
The Returning Officer would arrive at a decision with respect to allotment of symbols to independent candidates on 7 December.
After the death of Jayalalithaa in December last year, AIADMK split two into two factions lead by Sasikala-Dhinakaran and Panneerselvam-Palaniswami. After freezing the party’s ‘two-leaves’ symbol for a brief period of time, the Election commission allotted the symbol to Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction of AIADMK on the ground that they enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the legislative and organizational wing.
Dhinakaran and Sasikala have also disputed this decision allotting the ‘two-leaves’ symbol to Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction on the ground of violation of principles of natural justice. The hearing on this matter would begin on 12 February.