Context: Recently, Election Commission of India (ECI) ordered a political party to retain its official name and its symbol.
Election Symbols Background
- In October 2022, ECI froze the symbol and party name and allotted new interim names and symbols to both factions of the party.
- Order was issued by ECI under the provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
ECI and Party Symbol
- Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the Election Commission to recognise political parties and allot symbols.
- Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 aims to “to provide for specification, reservation, choice and allotment of symbols at elections in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies, for the recognition of political parties in relation thereto and for matters connected therewith”.
- Under Paragraph 15 of the Order, ECI can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.
- EC is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger.
- Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971.
Factor looked by ECI while deciding on dispute over party symbol
- ECI looks at the support enjoyed by each claimant in the party’s organisational and legislative wings.
- For support within the party’s legislative wing, the ECI looks at the number of MPs and MLAs who support each rival claimant.
- ECI examines the party’s Constitution and the list of office-bearers that was submitted when the party was united.
- ECI identifies the party’s apex organisational committee(s) and determines the number of office-bearers, delegates and members who support the rival claimants.
- In case of Majority support is unclear: In such cases ECI may freeze the party’s symbol and allow the two factions to register themselves with new party names or add prefixes and suffixes to he existing party name to make clear distinction about the new entities that are formed.
- The Election commission in 1997 felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
- Thus, it introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party, and could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.
Significance of Election Symbol
- The election symbol of a party provides instant brand recall among the voters.
- It can be compared to the way a company connects with its consumers.
- These are generally objects of everyday use or items that are easily identifiable by the common man, like those of the Congress’s ‘hand’, BJP’s ‘lotus’, AAP’s ‘broom’, and so on.
- The EC has a ‘bank’ of 200 such symbols which it allocates to recognised and unrecognised parties that can field candidates in at least 10% of the constituencies.
- If two parties have the same choice for a symbol, the EC follows a ‘first come, first served’ policy’.
Election Commission of India
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- Part XV (Article 324-329) of the Indian Constitution: It deals with elections and establishes a commission for these matters.