Lower-rung candidates can use political party symbols

Cuttack: Those contesting for the posts of ward members, sarpanchs and panchayat samiti members in the ongoing panchayat polls in the state can now use symbols and photographs of their respective political leaders and call themselves official candidates of the parties.

The Orissa High Court on Friday slapped a stay on the January 19 notification of the State Election Commission (SEC). A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice B N Mohapatra did not endorse the arguments of the SEC and adjourned the case to be taken up again in March, by which time the panchayat polls in the state would be over.

The high Court was not satisfied with the contention of the SEC to make the elections of lower rung posts in Panchayat Raj institutions "apolitical" and observed that these elections are always held under political affiliations and the political parties sponsor the candidates for all these posts as is done during urban local body elections.

The SEC had come out with a notification debarring the candidates of the rural local body elections, except the zilla parishad members from using the symbols of any political parties. The SEC had also asked the political parties to refrain from sponsoring any candidate for ward member, sarpanch and panchayat samiti members. The SEC had even refused to reconsider its decision after it was petitioned by several political parties.

But when a sarpanch candidate from Balasore approached the high court stating that the SEC notification was infringing her fundamental rights, a single-judge bench of Justice S K Mishra had dismissed the petition saying that the SEC decision was in sync with its political observation.

Not satisfied with the verdict of the single-judge bench, petitioner Haramani Singh again filed a writ appeal urging the high court to hear her case by a division bench. "Adjudicating over the writ appeal, the division bench headed by Chief Justice granted a stay on the operation of the impugned notification of the SEC and posted the case to be heard again in March this year," said the petitioner`s advocate Sashi Bhusan Jena, adding that the candidates can now use the symbols of their respective political parties.