'If Someone Is Named Rahul Gandhi...': Court's 'No' To Ban On Poll Namesakes

Rejecting a request for a ban on namesake candidates in elections, the Supreme Court today said it cannot stop people from contesting polls if they are named after political leaders.

May 3, 2024 - 17:30
'If Someone Is Named Rahul Gandhi...': Court's 'No' To Ban On Poll Namesakes

Rejecting a request for a ban on namesake candidates in elections, the Supreme Court today said it cannot stop people from contesting polls if they are named after political leaders.

Petitioner Sabu Stephen had moved a public interest litigation, arguing that namesake candidates are propped up in high-profile seats to mislead voters. The petitioner stressed that the presence of such candidates has often led to heavyweight candidates losing by a slim margin. The petition sought a direction to the Election Commission of India to take urgent steps to stop this trend in the interest of a free and fair election process.

Refusing to hear the matter, Justice BR Gavai said, "If parents have given similar names to candidates, how can they be prevented from contesting polls? Like Rahul Gandhi and Lalu Prasad Yadav." The court allowed the petitioner to withdraw the petition.

Namesake candidates are part of an age-old election trick in which candidates with names similar to that of a heavyweight are propped up by rival parties. The idea is to confuse voters and get them to vote for the namesakes, effectively harming the heavyweight.

A case in question is the Ramanathapuram Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu. Former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, also known as OPS, is contesting as an Independent this time. Besides the former AIADMK leader, there are four other Panneerselvams in the list of candidates. They are Ochappan Panneerselvam, Oyya Thevar Panneerselvam, Ocha Thevar Panneerselvam, and Oyyaram Panneerselvam -- all of them Independent candidates.

The experiment is being attempted in other states too. In Maharashtra's Raigad seat, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) has fielded Anant Geete. He is up against NCP's Sunil Tatkare. But two more Anant Geetes have signed for the poll fight as Independents.

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