Supreme Court In Pawar vs Pawar Hearing

'Mockery Of Voters': Supreme Court In Pawar vs Pawar Hearing

New Delhi:

The current trend of defection in political parties that end up with the defecting faction being recognised as the “real” party, was slammed by the Supreme Court today, which called it a “mockery of voters”.  Hearing a petition of the Sharad Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party, the court made it clear the situation sidesteps the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which was put in place to bar defections and the subsequent political instability.

The NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) had gone to court to challenge the award of party name and symbol to the Ajit Pawar faction by the Election Commission. Its main concern — the use of the well-known clock symbol of the Ajit Pawar faction in the coming Lok Sabha election.

The poll body’s decision was in line with its earlier order that awarded the party name and symbol to the rebel faction of the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde, who subsequently became the Maharashtra Chief Minister.

“When the Election Commission is recognising a faction only on basis of legislative strength and not organisational strength, is it not recognizing a split, which is no longer approved under the Tenth schedule,” said Justice J Vishwanathan.

“That way, you can engineer defections and claim the party symbol. Will it not be mockery of the voter?” the judge added.

The Election Commission had based its order in both cases on the number of legislators each side has — leaving aside the question of organisational strength, which the court pointed at.

The situation exposes a loophole in the anti-defection law, which mandates that a breakaway faction can avert disqualification only if they comprise two-thirds of the party and merge with another party.

Both in case of NCP and the Shiv Sena, the Election Commission had recognised the breakaway faction as the “real” party and awarded them the party name and poll symbol.

Only 12 of NCP’s 53 MLAs have been supporting Sharad Pawar, the party founder. Forty-one MLAs are with Ajit Pawar, who joined hands with the BJP-Eknath Shinde alliance in July last year in a very public split that came as a huge loss of face for his 83-year-old uncle.  

The Supreme Court today ordered a status quo for now regarding the party name and poll symbol, though Ajit Pawar has been told to take out ads saying the matter is sub judice.

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