The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar-led faction of the Nationalist Congress Party to give an undertaking that it will not use party founder Sharad Pawar’s name and images on posters, Live Law reported.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan also suggested that the faction use a symbol other than the “clock” for the elections to prevent confusion.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Sharad Pawar challenging an Election Commission order on February 6 that had recognised the Ajit Pawar faction as the real Nationalist Congress Party and allocated it the “clock” symbol.

The poll panel had also allowed Sharad Pawar’s faction to use a new name for the February 27 polls for six Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra. It had assigned the name “Nationalist Congress Party – Sharadchandra Pawar” to his faction on February 7.

Sharad Pawar had appealed to the Supreme Court on February 16 for an urgent hearing of his petition challenging the Election Commission order.

On February 19, the Supreme Court allowed the faction to use the name “Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar” beyond the Rajya Sabha polls and had listed the matter for hearing after three weeks.

On Thursday, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar, told the bench that Ajit Pawar’s faction was using the “clock” symbol, which has historically been associated with Sharad Pawar, along with the party founder’s name and image on campaign material.

The Election Commission had earlier allotted the symbol of a “man blowing turhato Sharad Pawar’s faction.

Singhvi also submitted a statement allegedly made by Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, from Ajit Pawar’s faction, that recommended the use of Sharad Pawar’s images to appeal to voters from the rural areas of the state.

The bench asked senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the Ajit Pawar group, why they were using Sharad Pawar’s images. “If you are so confident, then use your photographs,” the top court said.

In response, Singh said that a few members may have used the images and that it was not possible to keep check of all the posters on social media by workers.

“Then who is responsible,” the bench asked. “You give an undertaking that you will stop all members [of your faction] from using his photo. Now that you are two separate entities, go only with your own identity. You have chosen to separate. Now stick to this. It is for you to control your workers.”

The court also suggested that the Ajit Pawar faction use a different symbol.

“Why doesn't the [Ajit Pawar faction] also choose another symbol so that you can conduct your business peacefully and without stress?” it said. “You can continue to use that symbol during elections.”

Singh agreed to file an affidavit by Saturday. The top court listed the matter for hearing on March 19.

In July last year, Ajit Pawar, along with several party MLAs had joined Maharashtra’s coalition government comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. After joining the coalition, Ajit Pawar became the deputy chief minister of the state.

The move had led to a split in the Nationalist Congress Party, with one faction supporting Sharad Pawar and the other backing Ajit Pawar.