Face-off between SEC and State Govt on local body polls
Thursday, 05 Apr 2018 | PNS | Dehradun–
The urban local bodies’ election in Uttarakhand has created a situation of face-off between the state election commission and the state government. The State Election Commissioner Subardhan dropped a bombshell on Wednesday morning when addressing a Press conference he accused the state government of not being serious about holding the election of local bodies on time.
The state government however was swift to deny the chargeand claimed that it is ready for the elections. While interacting with the media persons at state election commission office Subardhan said that the term of local bodies in the state is ending on May 4 and it the constitutional obligation that the election of new bodies is done before this date. He said that the election commission is fully prepared for the elections but the attitude of state government is that of non cooperation. Subardhan said that the government repeatedly says that it is ready for the polls but the fact is that till date the work on delimitation and reservation of the wards is not complete. He added that there is now no chance to hold the election on time and observed that had the government issued the notification on April 2, the election commission would have issued the notification on April 3 and the elections would have held on time.
The state election commissioner said that on its part the commission started the preparation for the elections in the Month of October last year when it issued notification for review and updation of electoral rolls. He said that the state government in the meantime started the process of delimitation and up gradation of local bodies which clearly showed the intention that it is not interested in timely holding of the elections. Subardhan went on to add that his repeated requests to the government on holding the elections remained unanswered. He said that from July last year he is trying to meet the state chief minister but his office is yet to fix the appointment. The election commissioner said that the High Court stuck down the delimitation notification of 24 local bodies on March 9 and gave directions to the state government for re issuing the notices of objections and suggestions from local people of these bodies. He said that the commission even suggested that elections in the remaining bodies barring those pending in court can be initiated but it also drew no response from the government. Subardhan said that the government in a letter to the commission said that it would issue notification before April 09 but the language of the letter is full of ambiguity. Giving another example of government’s no cooperation the state election commissioner said that a budget of Rs 17 Crore was sought by the commission for purchase of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) EVM machines but the government has not released even Rs 17. He added that the state election commission has got the constitutional status and mandate to conduct the elections of local bodies on time and the commission is doing its best to discharge this duty. Subardhan said that under such circumstances the state election commission had no choice but to seek the intervention of the court.
The minister for urban development and spokesperson of state government Madan Kaushik has clarified that the intention of the state government is to conduct the elections of urban local bodies on time. Addressing a press conference at state secretariat on Wednesday, Kaushik said that the government would issue notification for expansion of new urban bodies on April 5 and soon the process for delimitation and reservations would be completed. He said on the order of HC the government has completed the process of inviting objections and suggestions for 24 bodies. The minster claimed that as per the direction of High Court and act the election schedule would soon be prepared and handed over to the election commission. He added that the government is constantly in touch with the commission and it has conducted many meetings in the commission officials. On question of CM not giving time to the state election commissioner, the Minister said the CM had a talk with him on Tuesday.
It has now become clear that the elections for the urban local bodies are sure to get delayed and the state government would appoint administrators in these bodies as there term is ending on May 4. The Supreme Court (SC) in a landmark judgement in Kishan Singh Tomar Vs Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad had clearly stated that an election to constitute a municipality should be completed before the expiry of its term. However in special cases the elections can be postponed for a period of six months and in such a case administrators are appointed in these bodies as term of the elected body ends in five years. The prevailing situation in Uttarakhand has ensured that the elections cannot be held in April and they would be delayed by at least two months. Under such circumstances the government has authority to appoint administrators in these bodies. Interestingly the tenure of state election Commissioner Subardhan is ending in June.
There are 1086 wards in all 13 districts of the state (barring Roorkee and Bajpur) and there are 23881200 voters in these bodies out of them there are 1147287 female and 1233913 male voters. The election commission data shows an increment of 844383 in last five years.
HC tells State to reply by April 11
Taking up the petition filed by the State Election Commission against delay in holding on local body elections, the High Court of Uttarakhand reportedly pulled up the state government and directed it to submit its reply in the court byApril 11. The case was taken up by the single bench of justice Sudhanshu Dhulia. This is stated to be the first instance of the State Election Commission approaching the high court for facilitating the conduct of the local body elections in Uttarakhand. The petition will be taken up next in the court on April 11.
‘Our allegations vindicated’: Congress
The Congress has stated that the serious allegations levelled by the state election commissioner on the state government have vindicated the charges that the Congress has been levelling on the state government regarding the local body elections. The Pradesh Congress Committee chief spokesman Mathura Datt Joshi said that the SEC had levelled serious allegations at the State Government which had not only exposed the state’s reluctance to hold the local body elections on time but had also shown the disregard it has for officials on constitutional posts. He said, “The Congress has been accusing the state government of attempting to delay the conduct of the urban local body elections. What the state election commissioner said substantiates our charge. Further, the state election commissioner also said that the chief minister had not given him time for a meeting despite repeated attempts. This shows the disregard with which the state government treats constitutional posts and the officials occupying such posts,” he alleged.
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