SC allows Sharad Pawar faction to use 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' name for LS polls

Sharad Pawar
Sharad Pawar

New Delhi | 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.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan also permitted the NCP bloc led by the veteran politician to use as its symbol 'man blowing turha' (a traditional trumpet also known as tutari).

"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 ordered.

The bench passed the order on a plea by the Sharad Pawar group 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.

The NCP, founded by Sharad Pawar, had 'clock' as its election symbol before its split. The symbol is now with the Ajit Pawar faction.

The bench further directed, "Consequently, the Election Commission of India as well as the State Election Commissions are directed to provisionally recognise the 'Nationalist Congress Party – Sharadchandra Pawar' along with 'man blowing turha' as a reserved symbol for that party for the purpose of contesting Parliament/state assembly elections."

It told the poll panel that the 'man blowing turha' symbol shall not be allotted to any other political party, independent candidate and the same shall not be used in any manner by the respondents (Ajit Pawar-led faction).

The State Election Commission of Maharashtra shall comply with the directions forthwith, the bench said.

"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 court said.

It asked the Ajit Pawar camp to file its response within four weeks on the Sharad Pawar group's main plea against the February 6 order of the Election Commission recognising the former as the real Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). 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, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi submitted that Sharad Pawar is the founder of the NCP and both the party name and the 'clock' symbol have been with the party for the past 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 bench said it cannot stay the Election Commission order of February 6 by an interim order, and to make out a case, the petitioner has to come up with some broad parameters.

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

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

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.

On March 14, observing that the name and photographs of Sharad Pawar cannot be used by the Ajit Pawar faction for political gains, the top court had sought a response from Ajit Pawar, a nephew of Sharad Pawar.

The top court had on February 19 directed that the Election Commission's order allotting 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' as the party name for the Sharad Pawar faction will continue till further orders.

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.

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.

NCP will not use name, picture of Sharad Pawar on banner or poster: Ajit Pawar assures SC

New Delhi | Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Tuesday gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by him will not use the name or picture of party founder Sharad Pawar on banners, posters or any election material.

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

He furnished an undertaking before a bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan pursuant to a March 14 order by the apex court.

"The Respondent has duly instructed the rank and file of the party to refrain from using the photographs or name of Sharad Pawar on any poster/banner of Nationalist Congress Party," the undertaking said.

Filed through advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, it added, "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."

The deputy chief minister said the members of his party have been duly apprised of the judgement of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the result/outcome thereof and a communication/notice has been issued by Sunil Tatkare, the state NCP chief.

The bench, after perusing Tatkare's letter, directed that a similar notice be issued with regard to other states as well.

The undertaking referred to the application filed by Sharad Pawar seeking to restrain the Ajit Pawar faction from using the 'clock' symbol claiming that several MLAs of Maharashtra deputy CM-led bloc were using his picture on posters and banners.

Ajit Pawar said MLA Nilesh Lanke, who is being shown in the application using pictures of Sharad Pawar, has joined the camp led by the party founder.

"In fact, the petitioner is guilty of "suppressio veri, suggestio falsi" (suppression of truth or suggestion of an untruth) and has tried to mislead this court as if the said MLA is showing allegiance to the NCP led by Ajit Pawar but misutilizing the photographs of Sharad Pawar," the document said.

Ajit Pawar told the top court that he intends to seek Lanke's disqualification under the tenth schedule of the Constitution and claimed, "In fact, the boot is on the other leg. The said MLA is guilty of using the symbol of the respondent, namely the 'Clock', as if the symbol is associated with Sharad Pawar with whom he has joined hands."

In a separate affidavit filed in the application, Ajit Pawar asserted the prayer made by Sharad Pawar is also "patently mischievous" inasmuch as he wants to use the name "Nationalist Congress Party – Sharad Chandra Pawar" and at the same time seeks to restrain the answering respondent (Ajit Pawar) from using the name Nationalist Congress Party and the 'Clock' symbol.

"The petitioner therefore wants to defeat the entire judgement of the ECI by an Interim Application," it said.

On March 14, observing that the name and photographs of Sharad Pawar cannot be used by the Ajit Pawar faction for political gains, the top court had sought a response from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction led by the Maharashtra deputy chief minister on a plea of the octogenarian Maratha leader alleging misuse of his popularity by the rival camp.

It had taken note of the submissions of senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Sharad Pawar, that the faction-led by his nephew Ajit Pawar was "riding piggyback on his good will" and the Maratha stalwart did not need "left handed compliments" from rivals.

"Once you (Ajit Pawar faction) have chosen to go separate ways, then you use your own identity only," the top court had said while seeking a categorical and unconditional undertaking that the name and pictures of Sharad Pawar will not be used by the rival camp.

Pawar senior 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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