NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the amendment to the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 dated December 1, 2000.
A three-judge Bench, comprising Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice S S Nijjar and Justice J Chalameshwar, in a two-to-one majority, ruled that the amendments effected by the Election Commission (EC) to the Election Symbols Order is okay. While Justice Kabir and Justice Nijjar upheld the amendment, Justice Chalameshwar, in a dissenting order, said that the amendment, insofar as it denies the reservation of a symbol for the exclusive allotment of the candidates set up by a political party with “insignificant poll performance,” is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
A batch of petitions were filed in the SC, including by the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) challenging the amendment to the Order. The petitions averred that the amendment mandates that to be recognised as a State party, it would have to secure not less than 6 per cent of the total valid votes polled in the State and should also have returned at least two members to the Legislative Assembly. The DMDK stated that it was refused recognition as a State party though it had secured 8.33 per cent of the votes in the Assembly elections. It was denied the recognition as it failed to return at least two candidates to the Assembly.
Justice Kabir recalled the contention of counsel K K Venugopal, appearing for DMDK, said that this amendment was causing hardship to parties as it imposes two conditions clubbed with the other conditions which were highly anomalous and should be struck down. He also recalled the arguments of Meenakshi Arora, counsel for the EC, who said that the petitioners cannot contend that the EC was not competent to decide the questions relating to the allotment of symbols as its powers were vested in it under Article 324 of the Constitution. Justice Kabir and Justice Nijjar said, “We do not see any variance between the views expressed by the Constitution Bench in the PUCL case and the amendments effected by the EC to the Election Symbols Order.