New Delhi: The Election Commission made a “patent error of law" in granting the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) “two leaves" party symbol to the rival faction led by Tamil Nadu chief minister E. K. Palaniswami and deputy CM O. Panneerselvam on the basis of a “majority test", Delhi high court was told on Tuesday.
A bench comprising justices G.S. Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal was hearing a plea moved by the “ousted" AIADMK leaders T.T.V. Dhinakaran and Sasikala challenging a 23 November 2017 order of the Election Commission, which had allotted the symbol to the Panneerselvam-Palaniswami camp for holding majority support in the party’s legislative wing.
Counsel for Dhinakaran, Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the Commission should not have relied solely on a majority test, especially when the primary members of the party were not taken in consideration to determine the support for either faction.
The Commission ought to have applied two other tests as well—a ‘Constitution of party’ test and an ‘Aim and Objective’ test, in order to form a holistic opinion, Singhvi submitted.
It was submitted that a faction that abrogated the Constitution of the AIADMK party by repealing the post of party general secretary, which forms the “heart and soul" of the party, could not have passed this “holistic" test.
Singhvi further submitted that the Commission should have “fixed an anchor" with respect to a deadline for submission of proof of support, instead of extending it time and again from March 2017 to September 2017, thereby “helping (the rival faction) in creating a majority."
After the death of Jayalalithaa on 5 December 2016, AIADMK split into two factions, one led by Sasikala-Dhinakaran-Panneerselvam and the other by Palaniswami. Later, Panneerselvam and Palaniswami joined hands to oust Sasikala and Dhinakaran.
After freezing the party’s ‘two-leaves’ symbol for a brief period, the Commission in November last year allotted the symbol to the Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction on the grounds that they enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the legislative and organizational wings.
On 28 March, the Supreme Court asked the acting chief justice of the Delhi high court to constitute a division bench to adjudicate on the dispute before April-end, while staying an order of the Delhi high court allowing Dhinakaran to use a common poll symbol and a suitable party name for his faction as an interim measure.
The matter will be next heard on 1 May.