SC reserves verdict on plea of National Conference against denial of plough symbol to candidates for Ladakh polls

The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict on a plea of the National Conference challenging the denial of plough’ symbol to its candidates for the upcoming Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) polls on September 10.

A bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah concluded hearing arguments on behalf of the lawyers representing union territory administration and the political parties, and said the judgement will be pronounced on September 6.

At the outset, Additional Solicitor General K M Natraj, appearing for the UT administration and the poll panel, said the election symbol order of 1968 is applicable to assembly and parliamentary polls and not for local body elections.

He also said the reserved election symbols were allocated to recognised national political parties. Moreover, out of 89 candidates purportedly belonging to National Conference, none of them sought allocation of plough’ party symbol for the upcoming local body polls.

The law officer said the last date for filing nomination for the hill council polls ended on August 23 and after the scrutiny of nomination papers a day after, the candidates could withdraw themselves from the fray by August 26.

The elections are scheduled on September 10 and the poll process cannot be stalled, he said, adding the poll panel was not under any obligation to grant reserved symbols to the candidates.

The counsel for National Conference opposed the submissions, saying the party was in power in the Ladakh hill council and its candidates cannot be denied the benefit of a reserved poll symbol for the local body elections.

The 1968 election symbol order was applied to deprive the recognised party from going public with its fixed election symbol, the lawyer said, adding that a level playing field was denied to the National Conference.

“The local body elections are also fought on party lines,” he added.

Earlier, the bench had termed as “unfair” the act of the UT administration of not granting the ‘plough’ poll symbol to the party for the hill council elections despite the order of the high court in this regard.

“It is unfair… We will set aside the election schedule if need arises,” the bench had observed on August 25 while hearing the appeal of the Union Territory of Ladakh against the order of the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court.

Prior to this, the top court had refused to stay the high court order on the grant of the ‘plough’ poll symbol for the party in the hill council elections.l

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The high court has dismissed the Ladakh administration’s plea against a single bench order allowing NC candidates to contest the upcoming polls for LAHDC, Kargil, on the party symbol.

The administration had approached a division bench of the high court against the single bench order of August 9 which directed the NC to approach the office of the Election Department of the Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh for notifying the reserved symbol ‘plough’ already allotted to for in the polls.

According to a notification issued by the election department on August 5, the polls for 26 seats of the 30-member LAHDC, Kargil, are scheduled for September 10 and the counting of votes will take place four days later.

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