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The Delhi High Court today reserved its verdict in the dispute over the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK’s) “two leaves” election symbol.
The development comes a day after the Supreme Court directed the High Court to dispose of the dispute within four weeks.
Judgment was reserved by a Division Bench of Justices GS Sistani and Sangita Dhindra Sehgal nearly 10 months after it heard the matter for the first time in April, 2018.
The dispute arises out of two competing claims over AIADMK’s “two leaves” election symbol from “unrecognized” AIADMK leaders TTV Dhinakaran-Sasikala and Tamil Nadu chief minister EK Palaniswami and deputy CM O. Panneerselvam.
Soon after the death of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016, the party split into two factions. While one faction was led by Sasikala-Dhinakaran-Panneerselvam and the other was led by Palaniswami. However, Panneerselvam and Palaniswami 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 Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction on the grounds that they enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the legislative and organizational wings.
Aggrieved by the allotment, 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 on the dispute before April-end, 2018
However, due to the change in the roster bench and the complexity of the issues involved, the dispute lingered.
Sasikala-Dhinakaran have argued that the EC order allotting the “two-leaves” symbol to the Panneerselvam-Palaniswami 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 instead on taking account of number of supporters for a faction in the party’s legislative and organizational wings, EC should have considered the number of primary members of the party.
Arguing that the EC should have applied the “aim & object test” to determine the rightful successor of the AIADMK party and hence the symbol, Sasikala-Dhinakaran stated that since Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction destroyed the AIADMK constitution by repealing the post of General Secretary in September 2017 when Sasikala was the interim General Secretary, and they could never be AIADMK’s rightful successor.
Panneerselvam-Palaniswami as well as the Election Commission defended the order on allotment of the two leaves symbol on the ground that the their faction held a clear majority.
Sasikala-Dhinakaran faction was represented by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Meenakshi Arora.
Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction was represented by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi, CS Vaidyanathan.