SC sets aside Ladakh hill council poll, allots ‘plough’ symbol to National Conference (Lead)
New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the entire election process, due on September 10, of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in the Kargil region, declaring that Jammu and Kashmir National Conference is entitled to the exclusive allotment of the plough symbol in these polls.
A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah directed that fresh notification will be issued within seven days from Wednesday to constitute the 5th LAHDC in Kargil.
It also imposed costs of Rs 1 lakh on the Union Territory Administration to be deposited in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Welfare Fund.
The Ladakh administration had declined to authorise the J&K National Conference to use the ‘plough’ symbol for the elections.
In an interim direction, a single judge of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Srinagar had allowed the candidates set up by the National Conference to contest on the reserved election symbol (plough) already allotted to the party in terms of Paragraphs 10 and 10(A) of Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
A division bench of the High Court had also dismissed the UT’s appeal against an order passed by the single judge on August 9.
Thereafter, the UT had approached the Supreme Court arguing that the high court proceeded on erroneous assumption as the LAHDC election was being conducted by the Election Authority of the Union Territory of Ladakh constituted under Rule 5 of The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (Election) Rules, 1995.
It argued that election symbols orders framed by the Election Commission will have no application in the LAHDC elections.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court found it “surprising” that the “Union Territory of Ladakh not only denied R1 (J&KNational Conference) the Plough symbol, but even upon timely intervention by the learned Single Judge, has left no stone unturned not only to resist but also frustrate a cause simply by efflux of time”.
It said that notifying the election “while sitting on the representation” of the party raises “serious questions”.
“Having considered the matter in extenso, the Court does not find any merit in the present appeal,” the top court held, adding that the request for allotment of the Plough symbol was bonafide, legitimate, and just.