SC asks NCP factions to abide by order on use of poll symbol, party name
   Date :05-Apr-2024
SC asks NCP factions
DAYS before the first vote for the Lok Sabha polls is cast, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the rival NCP factions led by party founder Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to abide by its directions on the use of symbols, party names and disclaimers in publicity material for the elections. On March 19, the top court had allowed the Sharad Pawar faction to use ‘Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar’ as its name and ‘man blowing turha’ (a traditional trumpet also known as tutari) as the symbol for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and Assembly elections in four States. Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha are being held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. The Election Commission has recognised the faction led by Ajit Pawar as the “real” Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and allotted it the ‘clock’ poll symbol used by the outfit before the split.
The apex court has said to which faction the ‘clock’ symbol ultimately goes will depend on the outcome of the proceedings initiated by Sharad Pawar against the EC’s decision. The top court had directed the Ajit Pawar bloc to issue a public notice in English, Hindi and Marathi newspapers making it clear that the matter of allocation of the ‘clock’ symbol is sub judice before the court and its use is subject to the final outcome of the proceedings. On Thursday, a bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, while disposing of the applications filed by the rival sides against each other over alleged non-compliance of the court’s March 19 order said, “It is high time that leaders of both factions should be somewhere else (electoral arena) and not courts.” It directed the Sharad Pawar faction to sensitise its party workers, office bearers, MPs and MLAs, and supporters about using the name ‘Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar’ and the symbol ‘man blowing turha’ during the poll campaign.
The bench also told the group to ask its leaders and workers to not use the ‘clock’ symbol in poll advertisements. Similarly, it asked the Ajit Pawar faction to publish advertisements prominently in newspapers with a disclaimer that the issue of allocation of the ‘clock’ symbol to it is sub judice. The bench refused to modify its March 19 directions, as sought by the Ajit Pawar bloc, saying it was not necessary. During the hearing, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Sharad Pawar faction, and leading apex court lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Ajit Pawar bloc, showed advertisements, pictures, video clips and social media posts to claim that the court’s orders have not been complied with. Singhvi claimed that leaders of the Ajit Pawar bloc were using photographs of Sharad Pawar and the ‘clock’ symbol without the disclaimer, while Rohatgi asserted that leaders of the Sharad Pawar faction were making use of the ‘clock’ symbol and name ‘Nationalist Congress Party’ in their publicity material.
The bench said, “We don’t have any doubt about the bonafide of both the parties and understand that at the top level leaders do understand our order. But we also understand that at the grassroots level it is difficult for the supporters and party workers to construe the order.” “The responsible people of the party like president, vice-president, state president, MP/MLA and other office bearers should at least abide by the court’s order,” it said. Rohatgi assured the bench that the Ajit Pawar bloc will issue advertisements prominently in newspapers with the disclaimer that the matter regarding allocation of the ‘clock’ symbol is sub judice and subject to outcome of the proceedings before the court.