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The Delhi High Court today upheld the order of the Election Commission (EC) allotting AIADMK’s Two Leaves symbol to the faction led by EK Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam (EPS-OPS faction).
While dismissing the appeal by leaders of the other faction, TTV Dhinakaran and V Sasikala, the Court observed that there was no infirmity with the EC order.
“..none of the grounds urged by the petitioners are made out. We find no infirmity in the order of the Commission warranting interference by this Court. All petitions are, accordingly, dismissed.”, the Judgement reads.
The judgment was delivered by a Division Bench of Justices GS Sistani and Sangita Dhindra Sehgal. The verdict was reserved by the Bench on February 8.
Soon after the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016, the AIADMK party split into two factions. While one faction was led by AIADMK leaders TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala and deputy CM O Panneerselvam, the other was led by Tamil Nadu chief minister EK Palaniswami. Panneerselvam and Palaniswami later joined hands later to oust Sasikala and Dhinakaran from the party.
On November 23, 2017, the Election Commission allotted the Two Leaves symbol to the EPS-OPS faction on the ground that they enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the legislative and organizational wings.
Aggrieved by the allotment, “unrecognized” AIADMK leaders Dhinakaran and Sasikala moved the Delhi High Court assailing the EC order.
While the matter was pending before a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli, the Supreme Court in March 2018, directed the then Acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to constitute a Division Bench to adjudicate the dispute.
Sasikala and Dhinakaran had argued that the EC order allotting the “two-leaves” symbol to the EPS-OPS camp, and thus recognizing that faction as the successor of the AIADMK post Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s death, could not be sustained in law. It was argued that the EC should have applied the “aim & object test” to determine the rightful successor of the AIADMK party, and not the numerical majority test.
The Court, in its 69-page judgement, has however concluded that given the democratic set-up of the AIADMK, the Commission had rightly applied the majority test.
“On going through the rules and regulations of the party, it is clear that the party has a democratic set-up. Units at all levels provide for local elections to elect their office bearers. All power is derived directly or indirectly through elections from its primary members. In such a scenario,..the test of majority would be a relevant and germane test. Hence, we do not find any fault with the decision of the Commission to apply the majority test.“, it said.
It further held that even assuming that the ‘aim & object test’ was applicable, the test would be “ineffectual and neutral“.
EPS-OPS, as well as the Election Commission, defended the order on allotment of the two leaves symbol on the ground that their faction held a clear majority.
The Sasikala-Dhinakaran faction was represented by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and Meenakshi Arora. They were assisted by Advocates Amit Anand Tiwari, Vivek Singh, N. Raja Senthoor Pandian, Mary Mitzy, Shakun Sharma, Harshal Gupta, Devyani Gupta, Swastik Dalai, P Praveen Samadhanam, Shakun Sharma.
The EPS-OPS faction was represented by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi, CS Vaidyanathan, KV Vishwanathan and Gurukrishna Kumar. They were assisted by Advocates Gowtham Kumar, Balaji Srinivasan, Siddhant Kohli, Garima Jain, Pallavi Sengupta, Vaishnavi Subrahmanyam, Lakshmi Rao, Anirudh Gupta, Harsh Vaidyanathan Shankar, Ram Shankar, Pratiksha Mishra, Ravi Raghunath, Srishti Govil, Arunava Mukherjee, Mayank Kshirsagar, Babu Murugavel, Prakash Kumar Gandhi, Rakesh Sharma, Diksha Rai and Palak Mahajan.
Election Commission was represented by Advocate PR Chopra.
Read the Judgement: