Leh: After a rap on the knuckles from the Supreme Court, the Ladakh election department has issued a fresh notification reserving the ‘plough’ symbol for the National Conference for the forthcoming local body polls in Kargil.
The election to the fifth Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Kargil will be held on October 4, according to the notification issued by administrative secretary Yetindra M Maralkar.
“In pursuance to the order of the Supreme Court dated 06/09/2023…, the symbol ‘Plough’ is hereby reserved for the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Party for the ensuing elections…,” it stated.
Holding that the National Conference is entitled to the ‘plough’ symbol, a bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah had on Wednesday dismissed the plea by the Ladakh administration opposing the allotment of the symbol to the party and also imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on it.
In its 51-page order, the Supreme Court said it did not find any merit in the appeal of the Ladakh administration and added that the request for allotment of the ‘plough’ symbol by the National Conference was “bonafide, legitimate and just, for the plain reason that in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir (which included the present Union Territory of Ladakh), it was a recognized State Party having been allotted the ‘plough’ symbol.”
Coming down heavily on the Ladakh administration, the top court stated, “What is also clear is that the appellants (Ladakh administration) are attempting to approbate and reprobate….”
To a contention of Ladakh administration not to give the symbol to the National Conference as the election department was in the middle of holding the polls, the court said “it would not be out of place to mention that this Court can even turn the clock back, if the situation warrants such dire measures. The powers of this Court, if need be, to even restore status quo ante are not in the realm of any doubt.”
The bench also asked the Ladakh administration to deposit Rs 1 lakh in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Welfare Fund.
Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court had dismissed the Ladakh administration’s plea against a single bench order allowing NC candidates to contest the upcoming polls for the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil, on the party symbol.
The administration had approached a division bench of the high court against the single bench order of August 9 which directed the NC to approach the office of the Election Department of the administration of Ladakh to notify the reserved symbol ‘plough’ already allotted to for in the polls.
According to a notification issued by the election department on August 5, the polls for 26 seats of the 30-member LAHDC, Kargil, are scheduled for September 10 and the counting of votes will take place four days later.
In Srinagar, NC leader Omar Abdullah said, “Election guidelines are very clear about the allocation of symbols. Clearly, the administration in Ladakh had a very biased agenda which is why they went all the way to the SC to deny us our right.”
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said the verdict by the Supreme Court has been scathing about the conduct of the Ladakh administration. “Biased Ladakh administration failed to stop us from contesting council polls,” he said.