Supreme Court suggests Ajit Pawar faction to use symbol other than clock, asks not to use Sharad Pawar’s name in posters

The Supreme Court today asked the Ajit Pawar faction, officially recognized as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) by the Election Commission of India (ECI), not to use the name and photos of Sharad Pawar in their campaign posters.

The apex court asked the Ajit Pawar faction to file an undertaking that they will not directly or indirectly use the name of Sharad Pawar. It also verbally suggested that Ajit Pawar group use a symbol other than the clock symbol for elections so that there won’t be any confusion.

A bench comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan was hearing a plea filed by Sharad Pawar against the ECI’s decision to recognise Ajit Pawar’s group as the official NCP and allot the clock symbol to them.

Appearing for the Sharad Pawar faction, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi contended that the official faction was using the clock symbol, which is historically associated with Sharad Pawar, and the names and pictures of Sharad Pawar in campaign materials. The Senior Advocate further read out a statement, purportedly made by Chhagan Bhujbal, that the clock symbol and pictures of Sharad Pawar should be used in posters to lure rural voters.

Subsequently, Justice Surya Kant questioned Senior Advocate Maninder Singh appearing for the Ajit Pawar faction, why they are using Sharad Pawar’s photographs? Responding, Senior Advocate Singh said that the party was not doing it and some stray members might have done it. When Maninder Singh asserted that it may not be possible to control all social media posters by the workers, the bench categorically said that it is for the party to discipline its members.

Questioning who is responsible for the aforesaid poster, Justice Kant asked the counsel appearing for Ajit Pawar group to give an undertaking that they will stop all members of their faction from using Sharad Pawar’s photo. He added now that they are two separate entities, they must only go with their own identity. 

Furthermore, Justice Kant told senior counsel Singh that the bench wants a very categorical and unconditional undertaking that the will not use his name, photos, etc and that there can be no overlap. The counsel agreed to file an undertaking to this effect.

Additionally, Sharad Pawar’s counsel also objected to the ECI allowing the clock symbol to the Ajit Pawar group, mentioning that a new symbol should have been allotted to them after the split in the party. He stated that the clock is inextricably linked with Sharad Pawar’s identity.

Considering the concerns raised by Senior Advocate Singhvi, the bench suggested that Ajit Pawar faction use a different symbol. Mentioning that the ECI’s order is under challenge before the top court, Justice Kant said that if they set aside the order and if they do this in the middle of the election, what will happen?

Consecutively, Justice Kant suggested the Ajit Pawar faction choose another symbol which they can use during the election. He added that the bench is only requesting them to explore the idea. Ajit Pawar group’s counsel agreed to file an affidavit by Saturday. 

The Court will hear the matter next on March 19.

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