Kochi: The Kerala High Court has stayed for a month the Central Election Commission (CEC) order allowing the group led by the Rajya Sabha member of Parliament Jose K Mani to use the two leaves symbol and the name Kerala Congress (M).
The order was passed by Justice P V Asha on a petition filed by the P J Joseph faction against the decision of the Election Commission to recognise the Jose K Mani group as the official Kerala Congress (M) and to allow it to use the two leaves symbol.
The case will next be heard on October 1.
Supreme Court lawyers appeared for both sides in the hour-and-a-half-long debate. While Basava Prabhu Patil appeared for the Joseph faction, P S Narasimha represented the Jose faction.
EC cannot ignore court ruling: Joseph
The Joseph faction said that a civil court had barred Jose K Mani from acting as the chairman of the party. The Election Commission has no power to ignore or overturn the decision of the court.
The credibility of the affidavits submitted by the state committee members to the Election Commission has been questioned, it said. The commission has not received the actual list of 450 members of the committee. The director of the legal division of the Commission expressed doubts about the lists presented.
The Election Commission's position that 305 names from both the lists could be considered is also wrong, it said.
Opposing EC decision can’t be allowed: Jose
The Jose section said that opposing the decision of the Election Commission, which has constitutional powers, cannot be allowed. The Election Commission has the power to decide on the election symbol. The order is based on the majority opinion of the Election Commission.
The Joseph faction’s argument is based on the order of the dissenting member, it argued.
Issues raised during hearing
The Election Commission can allot the election symbol but can it say to whom the party belongs? How can conflicting orders from different forums exist at the same time? These were the issues that were raised in the High Court during the arguments in the case. These issues will be answered in the final hearing of the case on October 1.
How can the conflicting situation of the party being said to belong to a person who is not the chairman persist, advocate P B Krishnan argued on behalf of P C Kuriakose, who is in favour of Joseph.
The civil court has ruled that the election of Jose K Mani as chairman and the meeting in which he was elected were invalid. But, the Commission says the Jose K Mani faction is the real party. One of the questions is how these two verdicts can be implemented at the same time.
Supreme Court Advocate Basava Prabhu Patil, appearing for P J Joseph, contended that it was not correct for the Commission to examine which group had the majority from a total of 305 members whose names were common in the two lists that were provided by both the factions without taking into account the majority in the 450-member state committee.
He also pointed out that a member of the Commission had written a dissent note asking for new affidavits to find a majority in the state committee.
However, it was not right to question the majority order citing the dissent note, argued Supreme Court advocate PS Narasimha and advocate K Gopalakrishna Kurup while appearing for Jose.
The Joseph faction argued that the Election Commission’s decision had resulted in the election of a committee of 305 members that had no legal backing. The Commission can only decide on the symbol. It was up to the courts to decide to whom the party belonged, it said.
However, Jose's lawyer argued that the Election Commission’s move was to assess whether the Jose faction could use the two leaves symbol in the election. Contradictory stands had necessitated the process to find out to whom the symbol belonged, he said.