Festival of democracy is celebrated by the people of India once in five years both central and state. Each state has unique ideologies and pattern being a representative of the people. The one main reason for the existence of political party symbols in India is obviously to help voters to easily identify and remember the party or the candidate because India has its roots in villages even in 21st century many villages with low literacy rate has been found. The 1951 election marked the first census in Independent India and the commencement of first general democratic elections, the literacy rate stood only 18.33 percent while voting not only the candidate name the party symbols are made important. Some examples during the after Independence elections candidate use to claim “vote for lotus”, “vote for tractor” the ordeal of educating the voters stood as the important challenge in those days.
Political marketing after 1951 elections taken deep roots in India. In 1962 general election incidents such as candidate campaigning with living elephant as the election symbol and some used a caged tiger but unfortunately in the year 1957 a candidate who bought chicken to the election booth as his symbol lost the election due to bird fell prey to local vultures and people started question his protectivity “why would people vote for somebody who is not even able to protect the chicken? Ever since the importance of party symbols in India got attention by the people.
In the contemporary world the usage of symbols has advanced with many inclusions by the Election Commission of India and they form an integral part of our representative Governmental system. The Election Commission in the year 1960 proposed the idea of regulating, reservation and allotment of electoral symbols should be done through a law of parliament that is “Symbols order” later EC stated that the recognition of political parties is supervised by the provisions of “Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968. This Act states EC has the power to makes any order in consonance with Article 324 of the Constitution along with section 29A of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 and Rules 5 and 10 of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
Article 324 describes the power of control, superintendence and direction of elections to be vested in EC. Section 29A of the Act states that political parties intending to enjoy benefits under the Act need to get themselves registered with the commission under the prescribed period. Rule 5 explains about EC specifies the symbols that may be chosen by the candidate in State Assembly and Parliamentary elections and also specify the restrictions to which their choices are subject too. Rule 10 talks about the task of preparation of a list of contesting candidates is also to be performed under the direction of the commission.
DECIDING PARTY SYMBOLS
A party or candidate has to provide a list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list at the time of filing nomination papers among them one symbol is allotted to the party or candidate on a first come first serve basis. When a recognized political party splits, the Election Commission decides on assigning the symbol. Symbols are of two types Reserved and Free, Eight National parties and 64 state parties across the country have “reserved” symbols. The Election Commission also has a pool of nearly 200 “free” symbols that are allotted to the thousands of unrecognized regional parties that pop up before elections.
Under paragraph 15 of Symbols Order the EC has the exclusive right to decide on issues over merger or split of a party. The EC decides disputes among rival’s factions of a recognized political party symbols and name, earlier executive orders and notifications under the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 the first case of dispute of party symbols was brought by the communist Party of India. In 1971 the Indian National Congress split into congress led by Indira Gandhi and congress led by Nijalingappa and the reserved symbol become the bone of contention. The EC rejected the claim of congress establishing a majority test and deciding in favor of the majority out of the total members returned on congress tickets to the house of parliament and the total members of all legislatures on congress tickets, the supreme court held that the decision of EC is final and binding under para 15 of the order.
CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF SYMBOLS ORDER
In the case of Kanhaiyalal Omar v R K Trivedi the apex court ruled under article 324 of the constitution could not be interpreted to have vested legislative powers to the ECI to issue such a order. In Sadiq Ali & Another v Election Commission of India the court held symbol is not a property that can be simply divided between two owners. In V.K. Sasikala v The Election Commission of India the Delhi High Court upheld the decision of the EC said that it used the majority test fairly and the decision was binding. In All Party Hill Leaders (APHC) v Captain W A Sangma and others notified allotment of a symbol in a country like India is quite essential as the illiteracy rate is still very high and the symbol as a favor of casting votes to a particular candidate has proved to be invaluable aid. In Subramanian Swamy v ECI the petitioner alleged that in 2002 local bodies election in Andhra the reserved symbol of Janata Party was allocated and used by the Telugu Rashtra Samiti which has nothing to do with former party the plea got rejected. The symbols are subject to scrutiny from the Election Commission of India.