New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday began hearing the dispute over the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK’s) “two leaves" election symbol—claimed by “unrecognized" AIADMK leaders T.T.V Dhinakaran-Sasikala on the one hand, and Tamil Nadu chief minister E. K. Palaniswami and deputy CM O. Panneerselvam on the other.
Counsel for Sasikala, Kapil Sibal told division bench of G.S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal that the 23 November 2017 order of the Election Commission, allotting the “two-leaves" symbol to the Panneerselvam-Palaniswami camp, which in effect recognized that faction as the successor of the AIADMK post chief minister Jayalalithaa’s death, could not be sustained in law.
Sibal argued that the EC had “misdirected" itself by seeking details of a number of members of Parliament, legislative assembly and the party’s general council to determine the issue of the ‘real AIADMK’. Instead, weightage should have been given only to the number of primary members of the party in support of either faction, he submitted.
Sibal said the faction led by Panneerselvam-Palaniswami had abrogated the AIADMK constitution by repealing the post of General Secretary in September 2017 when Sasikala was the interim General Secretary, and hence could not claim to be the rightful successor to AIADMK.
“People who change the entire constitution of AIADMK cannot be AIADMK...They must register themselves as a new party," Sibal stated.
The office of General Secretary, as per the AIADMK constitution, held “supreme authority" in the functioning of the party and AIADMK would not “continue" without this post, Sibal added.
After the death of Jayalalithaa on 5 December 2016, AIADMK split two 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 EC 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 20 April.