No April schedule for civic poll, give fresh dates on January 31: High Court

The Madras High Court on rejecting the State Election Commission’s (SEC) submission that the deferred local body elections could be held only in April, directed it to hasten the process and submit the election schedule on January 31.
A file photo of the Madras High Court
A file photo of the Madras High Court

Chennai

A division bench comprising Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao and Justice SM Subramaniam, before whom the case challenging the single judge’s order staying the elections came up on Friday, out rightly refused to adjourn the case by five weeks as sought by SEC’s counsel B Kumar. 
The bench also sought to know the difficulty in abiding by the single judge’s order, who had directed the SEC to complete the process by December 31, 2016. 
Senior Counsel P Wilson, appearing on behalf of DMK, contended that the single judge had stayed the elections since the notification process was done overnight without giving breathing time to political parties to prepare themselves. But since then ample time have lapsed and it was important that the SEC acted independently and impartially by holding the election as early as possible. He also pointed out that SEC does not require time until April to abide by the other directions, which included immediate uploading of nomination forms in their website to avoid tampering of the same by election officers and sensitising the public, especially candidates about its own notification dated September 1, 2016, requiring affidavits disclosing criminal cases against the candidate by issue of advertisements so that the voters would be informed about the criminal antecedents of the candidates. The elections were to be held in two phases-October 17 and 19, 2016. 
Justice N Kirubakaran, acting on a batch of petitions, including those by the DMK, put on hold the elections based on the flawed notification process and violation of Rule 24 of State Panchayat Election Rules of 1995. Since then, special officers were appointed to take over the running of local and rural civic bodies until December 31. Subsequently, on January 1, the state extended the term of appointment by a further six months.

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