The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to direct the Election Commission to issue pressure cooker as the common election symbol to an unregistered outfit led by TTV Dhinakaran, PTI reported. However, the top court asked the Election Commission to allot any one common or free symbol to the group’s candidates, adding that the winning candidates of Dhinakaran’s outfit will be treated as Independents for all practical purposes.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi clarified that allotting a symbol to the candidates should not in any manner be interpreted as judicial recognition of Dhinakaran’s outfit. “The ECI alone will take this decision [to recognise a group as a political party],” the bench said.

Dhinakaran, who founded the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, had sought the pressure cooker symbol for both the Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly bye-elections since he had used it for the December 2017 Assembly bye-election in Chennai’s RK Nagar, which was former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s seat. On February 16, 2018, the Election Commission had told the Delhi High Court that it was opposed to Dhinakaran’s plea because only a recognised political party can be allotted a symbol or name.

Requesting for the common symbol of pressure cooker for the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, Dhinakaran had told the Supreme Court on Monday that his party’s candidates would be forced to contest the elections on various symbols. The party is contesting in a total of 40 parliamentary and 19 Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the Lok Sabha polls and bye-elections.

The Supreme Court noted that the outfit had never applied for registration as a political party under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act or the guidelines of the Election Commission.

The court said “level playing field” needs to be ensured and ordered that the Election Commission, after due process and satisfaction, allot any of the 198 common symbols to the candidates, The Hindu reported. Recognising the winning candidates as Independents would mean that they are not bound by the party’s whip.