Election Commission to Supreme Court: Uddhav and Shinde's conflict with Shiv Sena is the only one at issue

The Election Commission of India (ECI) informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that as the election body had already completed its quasi-judicial job of resolving the matter, the fight over the Shiv Sena's name and bow-and-arrow emblem should solely be between Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray.

According to ECI's affidavit, the commission's decision to grant Shinde the Shiv Sena's name and symbol on February 17 was made in accordance with its powers under Article 15 of the 1968 Election Symbols (Reservation and Allocation) Order as a quasi-judicial body.

“Since the impugned order was passed not in an administrative capacity of the commission but in a quasi-judicial capacity under Paragraph 15 of the Symbols Order, it has no contentions to make on merits of the case as the impugned order is a well-reasoned order and covers all the issues raised by the petitioner,” ECI said in response to an appeal Thackeray filed against the order.

ECI also said that Thackeray's petition need not even be made a party to, since it has become functus officio (having performed its obligation) for the current case. The document said, “The replying respondent does not have any arguments to make on merits, and submits that it was for the opposing parties, i.e., the petitioner (Uddhav) and respondent no.1 (Shinde), to make submissions on the merits of the matter.

The highest court rejected Thackeray's request for a stay of the ECI ruling on February 22, opening the door for the Shinde-led group to seize control of the party's offices, other assets, and bank accounts. The court, presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, said that it cannot suspend the verdict or prevent Shinde from claiming the party's name or assets, even as it acknowledged Thackeray's appeal against the ruling and sent notifications to Shinde and ECI.

Thackeray claimed in his plea that ECI failed to settle the dispute impartially. He said that the ECI ruling dealt with matters that were closely related to a number of petitions that were being heard by a Supreme Court Constitution bench. The spectacular overthrow of Thackeray's administration last year has resulted in a number of legal disputes, which the Constitution panel is now deciding independently.

The regional party suffered a vertical split last year when Shinde and 39 other legislators left the party then led by Thackeray and allied themselves with the BJP to form the government. An eight-month battle between the two leaders over control of the party ended with ECI's ruling on February 17 that Shinde's faction would inherit the original party's name and its symbol.

ECI adopted the guidelines outlined in a Supreme Court decision from 1971, which states that such issues must be resolved using a triple test. The results of the first two benchmarks, according to ECI, were not conclusive.

The Shiv Sena's 2018 constitution was judged to be undemocratic, hence the first test—the party constitution's objectives—was declared unsuitable. The survey panel determined that neither side gave correct information about internal bodies, therefore the second test—that of the majority in the party's organizational body—was also disregarded. As a result, ECI relied on the third criteria, which is the test of legislative wing majority. Here, the body discovered that 13 of the 18 Lok Sabha MPs and 40 of the 55 members of the legislative assembly supported Shinde.

Nevertheless, Thackeray contended that the Pratinidhi Sabha was recognized by the Sena constitution as the top legislative body of the party and that 160 of its 200 members backed him.

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