Elections

Supreme Court Allows 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' Name For Sharad Pawar's Faction In LS Polls

The SC bench instructed both the Election Commission and the State Election Commission (SEC) to acknowledge the 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' and its symbol, which is a 'man blowing turha'.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar.
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Sharad Pawar faction to use 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' as its name for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the country.

The Supreme Court bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan also permitted the NCP bloc to use 'man blowing turha' (a traditional trumpet also known as tutari) as its symbol.

Sharad Pawar group had filed a plea seeking to restrain the Ajit Pawar faction from using the 'clock' symbol for the polls, as allotted by the Election Commission, on the ground that it is disrupting the level playing field but the SC bench rejected it.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), established by Sharad Pawar, used to have the 'clock' as its election symbol until it split.

Currently, the symbol is held by the faction led by Ajit Pawar.

The bench in its order stated, "It is directed that the petitioners shall be entitled to use the name 'Nationalist Congress Party – Sharadchandra Pawar' for the purpose of contesting the ensuing Parliamentary and state assembly elections along with the symbol of ‘Man blowing Turha'."

The bench told the poll panel that the 'man blowing turha' symbol shall not be allotted to any other political party or any independent candidate and the same shall not be used in any manner by the respondents of the case which is the Ajit Pawar-led faction.

The bench mentioned that the State Election Commission of Maharashtra should be complying with the directions.

As per PTI, the bench also stated, "The respondents are directed to issue a public notice in the newspapers in English, Hindi and Marathi editions notifying that the allocation of 'clock' symbol is sub-judice before this court and the respondent have been permitted to use the same subject to final outcome of these proceedings. Such a declaration shall be incorporated in every pamphlet, advertisement, audio or video clip to be issued by the respondent political party."

The Ajit Pawar group was instructed to submit their response within a period of four weeks regarding the main plea filed by the Sharad Pawar group against the Election Commission's decision to acknowledge Ajit Pawar as the legitimate leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on February 6.

The bench took on record an undertaking by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar which said, "The Respondent further states that there will be no usage of name or picture of Sharad Pawar on any banner, poster or any election material published etc. on behalf of the Nationalist Congress Party."

During the hearing, Abhishek Singhvi, a senior advocate, argued that Sharad Pawar is the creator of the NCP and that both the party's name and the 'clock' symbol have been associated with the party for the last 25 years.

"People is rural areas including women and youth look at the 'clock' symbol and vote. Even if two per cent of people vote looking at the clock symbol now, it will affect the level playing field. To avoid any confusion, this court must restrain them (Ajit Pawar faction) from using it. The ECI may offer them anything else, we have no problem with that," he said.

The court stated that it is unable to suspend the Election Commission's order from February 6 through a temporary order and to establish a valid argument, the petitioner must present certain general guidelines.

Justice Kant said, "Voters of India are very conscious, wise and politically active. They will vote looking at Sharad Pawar or Ajit Pawar."

Further Singhvi said problems arise when rural women and young voters go to vote as they can easily get confused as the new symbol 'man with turha' which is hardly a month old, while the clock was intertwined with Sharad Pawar’s name for decades.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, appearing for the Ajit Pawar faction, said there is no confusion and an election symbol can be frozen by the ECI and not the court.

"There is no confusion about the symbol as is being projected. The decision of ECI is very clear on which is the real NCP," Rohatgi said, while opposing the plea for restraining the Ajit Pawar faction from using the 'clock' symbol.

History of the case

The Supreme Court, on March 14, stated that the Ajit Pawar faction cannot exploit the name and pictures of Sharad Pawar for political advantages.

The court requested a response from Ajit Pawar, who is Sharad Pawar's nephew.

On February 19, the Supreme Court had directed that the Election Commission's decision to assign the name 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' to the Sharad Pawar faction would remain in effect until further notice.

Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar had on February 15 held that the NCP faction led by Ajit Pawar was the real NCP and that the anti-defection provisions in the Constitution cannot be used to stifle internal dissent.

Sharad Pawar had founded the NCP with former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Sangma and Tariq Anwar in 1999 after their expulsion from the Congress.

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Ajit Pawar had walked away with a majority of NCP MLAs in July last year and supported the BJP-Shiv Sena government led by Eknath Shinde.

(With PTI inputs)

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