Even though the stage is now set for elections to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on February 21, 2010, it is still uncertain whether this schedule can be followed as the Karnataka High Court is yet to decide on the legality of reservation of wards for different categories.
The State Election Commission (SEC), which on Monday evening announced the calendar of events for the polls, gave an undertaking to the High Court minutes after announcing the calendar that it would not contend that “the court cannot pass any order on the issue of reservation as the calendar has been already announced”.
The election schedule may then change if the court holds the reservation for wards unlawful, without giving the public the opportunity to file their objections before the final list. The court is set to pronounce its order on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the question how the civic body remained without people’s representation for the last three years bothers Bangaloreans, irrespective of whether the election will be held on February 21 or later.
The constitutional rights of Bangaloreans to choose their representatives in the city’s urban local body were denied on flimsy grounds, feel members of various Resident Welfare Associations, Citizen’s Action Forum and legal experts The Hindu spoke to.
They blame the State Government for postponing the elections ever since the term of elected body ended on November 23, 2006, and in prolonging the process of delimitation of wards without a valid reason.
The fall of Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government and the President’s Rule during 2006, Assembly and Parliamentary elections in 2008 and 2009 April-May, byelections to Assembly in December 2008, all became the pretexts for successive Governments to delay in completing the delimitation process, which in the normal course should have taken only about six months.
Were these reasons cited by the State Government to postpone elections to BBMP justified?
Legal experts points out that Article 243-U of the Constitution makes it mandatory to hold fresh elections to the urban local bodies before the expiry of their five-year term. In the case of BBMP, the Government has blatantly violated this constitutional provision.
Also, the legal experts refer to a verdict of a five-bench Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court which in 2006 made it clear that election to urban local bodies cannot be postponed beyond five years except under exceptional circumstances such as natural calamities, or man-made ones such as rioting or breakdown of law and order.
This verdict was pronounced while dealing with a case in which it was alleged that election to Ahmedabad City Municipal Corporation was delayed by a few months after expiry of its term in 2005 due to increase in number of wards from 43 to 45 and delay in completing the process of delimitation. In fact, legal experts compare this case with the issue of delay BBMP election.
They also say that none of the reasons cited by the State Government holds up under the law.
Meanwhile, the State Government also failed to adhere to the deadlines fixed by the Karnataka High Court. The Court, while acting on a PIL on July 2, 2008, had directed the Government to conduct the election within three months (that is by October 2, 2008). Subsequently it extended this deadline four times between October 2008 and November 2009. But Government did not comply.