The Shiv Sena name and its election symbol will remain with Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's camp, and the "mashaal" or flaming torch symbol with Uddhav Thackeray for now, the Supreme Court said Wednesday, assuring status quo on the issue that has been the bone of contention since the split of the party last year.
The court agreed to hear the petition from Team Thackeray, which has challenged the Election Commission's order handing the Shiv Sena name and its "bow and arrow" symbol to the Shinde faction.
Mr Thackeray had sought status quo on the Sena properties -- offices and bank accounts -- till its multiple petitions pending with the top court is decided. Besides the name and symbol issue, the group has also challenged the numbers in the Shinde faction, contending that a chunk of its MLAs deserve disqualification.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was representing the Thackeray group, told a bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud that they want "protection".
"We don't want our properties and bank accounts to be taken over," Mr Sibal said, pointing out that the parliamentary office of the Shiv Sena was taken over by the Shinde faction yesterday.
The court said it cannot put a freeze on the Election Commission's order "at this stage". The Thackeray camp can use legal challenges if any action is taken that is not based on the Election Commission's order.
The court also got an assurance from the Shinde faction that they will not issue any whip or take over bank accounts or party office of the Sena.
Team Shinde has contended that the poll symbol issue has already been heard and rejected by the High Court, which asked the Election Commission to go ahead and take a decision.
Under the circumstances, why should the Uddhav Thackeray group come to the Supreme Court directly, and why should the court intervene, they questioned.
In the petition filed on Monday, Team Thackeray contended that the Election Commission has failed to consider that they enjoy majority in the Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha.
The Commission's decision is based on the purported legislative majority of the Shinde group, which is "not a safe guide". Whether the Shinde group will retain its numbers "is an issue to be determined by the top court in the Constitution Bench," the Thackeray faction said.
The matter will be heard by the court after two weeks.