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Civic polls: Top officials liable for contempt, says Bench
The failure of the state to hold the local body elections took a different turn on Tuesday with the Madras High Court issuing statutory notice to the Principal secretaries of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department and Municipal Administration and Water Supply, after making it clear that they are liable for contempt for not holding the local body elections.
Passing interim orders on the contempt petition moved by DMK organising secretary RS Bharathi, the bench comprising Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice M Sundar, before which the case is specially ordered, said despite the undertaking given before the Supreme Court that the local body elections will be held by July 20, 2017, the said authorities passed an ordinance on a Sunday, a day before the first bench was scheduled to pronounce its order.
“It appears that the proposal for promulgation of the ordinance has been moved at the instance of the above officials. Prima facie contempt has been made out. Statutory notices are issued to the above officials returnable by September 11 for wilful disobedience in passing the ordinance,” the bench said.
The DMK, which moved the contempt plea, had submitted that there was no need for the executive to pass this ordinance and that too on a Sunday as there was no grave urgency to pass such an Ordinance by executive when Assembly was not in session.
Also, noting that when the High Court was seized of the matter and slated to deliver its order on September 4, 2017, the state ought to have obtained permission from the High Court before bringing such an ordinance pertaining to delimitation. This reveals sheer abuse of power and overreach of the court proceedings and hence certainly contemptuous.
Senior Counsel P Wilson appearing on behalf of the DMK said the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (TNSEC) and the government are blaming each other merely to avoid holding the local body elections. He said the TNSEC ought to be wound up for failing to live up to its mandate and the officials ought to be sent to jail for wilful disobedience.
It may be noted during the hearing on Monday, TNSEC had submitted that its hands are tied against conducting elections to the local bodies immediately in view of the recent amendments made to the Tamil Nadu Local Bodies Acts, based on which the delimitation process must be completed as per the latest census before holding the elections.
Shifting of 225 students ordered due to unsafe classrooms
Coming down heavily on the education department for allowing a primary school in Puzhal to function in temporary structures, the Madras High Court has directed the shifting of as many as 255 students from that school to nearby government schools and posting of official to non-sensitive position.
Passing orders on a plea seeking to review the approval accorded to Sri Saravana Vidhyalaya Nursery and Primary School for the academic year 2018-2019, Justice S Vaidyanathan said, “It is disheartening to note that schools like the one in Puzhal are continuing to function as per their whims and fancies, without having regard to the statutory norms stipulated in the Code of Regulations for Nursery and Primary Schools, despite sufficient time being given to them to rectify the deficiencies.”
Observing that no one can easily forget the Kumbakonam school fire tragedy in July 2004 which killed 92 students, the judge said, “A cursory glance at the photograph shows that the school is run only with temporary structures, that too with asbestos and thatched roofing. Moreover, electrical wirings in the classrooms are unsafe, thereby causing threat to the lives of students.”
He also slammed the officials for just issuing a show cause notice as early as July 20, 2015 and keeping mum thereafter. He said, “It is very unfortunate that the authorities are careless and they have proceeded on the basis that their work comes to an end with the issuance of show cause notice...”
“This court is of the view that departmental action has to be initiated against the officials concerned..., and they shall immediately be displaced from the present post and posted in a non-sensitive post,” Justice Vaidyanathan held and posted the case to October 8.