New Delhi [India], May 4 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed Maharashtra State Election Commission to notify the election program of local bodies election within two weeks.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Abhay S. Oka, and CT Ravikumar said, “Accordingly, the election program of such local bodies must proceed and the State Election Commission is obliged to notify the election program within two weeks from today in respect of such local bodies including to continue with the process from the stage as on 10.3.2022, on the basis of the delimitation done prior to coming into force of the Amendment Act(s) w.e.f. 11.03.2022.”
The court’s direction came while hearing the petitions which have questioned the Constitutional validity of the Sections 2,3,4(1)(a) and 5 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act, and Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats, Industrial Townships Act (Amendment) Act, 2022, Sections 2,3,4 5 and 6 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat and the Maharashtra Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti (Amendment Act), 2022; and Section 2 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022.
The thrust of the challenge is that under the constitutional scheme, the authority regarding
delimitation ought to be with the State Election Commission, which has been taken away owing to the coming into force of the Amendment Act(s) with effect from March 11, 2022.
The court asked Maharashtra State Election Commission to explain why the elections in a large number of local bodies (around 2486) across the State of Maharashtra, though overdue, and in some cases, even overdue for two years, have not been taken forward despite the peremptory direction given by this Court vide successive orders, including dated March 3, 2022.
State Election Commission responded that it had taken steps in right earnest until the
Amendment Act(s) came into force; and further, until the delimitation is done by the State Government under the stated Amendment Act(s), it was not possible for it to proceed in the matter.
“In the background of this submission, we observe and hold that the process of delimitation being a continuous exercise may be continued by the State of Maharashtra, subject to the outcome of these petitions, but that would be relevant only for future elections after such exercise is completed, ” the court said.
“For that, the elections of local bodies (around 2486) which had become due on expiry of five years term and required to be conducted before expiry of such term in terms of Article 243-E and 243-U of the Constitution of India, including Sections 6 and 6(B) read with Section 452A(2) of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act and related provisions in other enactments governing elections of local bodies, the conduct of elections of such local bodies cannot brook any delay, ” the top court said.
The court also said that the delimitation as it existed prior to March 11 2022 in respect of concerned local bodies be taken as notional delimitation for the conduct of overdue elections and to conduct the same on that basis in respect of each of such local bodies.
“Insofar as providing reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, the mandate of the Constitution and statutory provision must be followed; and in so far as other backward classes, compliance of triple test as predicated by this Court in Vikas Kishanrao Gawali Vs the state of Maharashtra must be adhered to, ” the court said adding that absent such compliance, no reservation can be provided in the local bodies for that category which may go for elections with immediate effect in terms of this order.
The court also clarified that until the delimitation is done by the State Government in terms of Amendment Act(s) of 2022, the State Election Commission shall give effect to this order is also in respect of upcoming elections in respect of local bodies which would become due by efflux of time.
The court listed the matters for further hearing on July 12, 2022, and asked the State Election Commission to file a compliance report before the next date of hearing. (ANI)