The government is planning to approach the court seeking extension of time limit set for conducting civic body polls in the Union Territory.
While disposing of a public interest litigation on August 22 last year, the Madras High Court directed the government to “immediately” initiate the process of conducting the election and declare the result as “expeditiously as possible, latest by, six months” from the date of the order. The order implies that the government should have by now started the election process so that they can declare the results by February 22.
With 19 days left, the government had not even filled the post of State Election Commissioner, vacant since Commissioner R. Narayana retired subsequent to the conduct of the local body elections in 2006, which was held after 38 years following a court direction. “Now we even if the Cabinet clears the name suggested by the Local Administration Department for the SEC, we will not be able to stick to the deadline. So we are planning to approach the court seeking extension of deadline ,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
As per the 73rd and 74 Constitutional Amendment, the States and Union Territories have to appoint the State Election Commissioner to conduct local body polls. According to Article 243- K, the Commissioner has been vested with the power of superintendence, direction and control of the entire process for the conduct of civic body polls.
While the tenure of the commune panchayats ended on July 10 and that of the Puducherry, Oulgaret, Mahe Municipalities on July 26, the tenure of Yanam and Karaikal Municipalities was over on August 2 and 10 respectively.
The ruling party members put the blame on the previous Vaithilingam-led Congress government for not filling up the post before the commencement of the last Assembly elections. Even during the Congress period, the LAD had sent a panel of names for the post of the SEC but was not cleared by the Cabinet.
But none of the main political parties, barring the Communist Part of India (Marxist), which has filed the public interest litigation, and to an extent the Communist Party of India, is serious in having local bodies.
So far, three main political parties – the Congress, the AIADMK, and the DMK – have not reacted to the lacklustre approach of the ruling N R Congress in dealing with the SEC appointment for the last three to four months.
Civic body representatives have on several occasions openly criticised Members of the Legislative Assembly of trying to subvert the role of local bodies in taking up local issues. On several occasions, during council meetings of Municipalities, representatives have raised the issue and accused the MLAs of trying to thwart attempts to delegate powers to them.