Special Correspondent

Suggestion, "not a direction and not even an opinion," put forth by First Bench

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has sought to gauge the opinion of the State Government on the possibility of appointing an independent authority to monitor civic elections in Chennai and other places in the State.

A suggestion, "not a direction and not even an opinion," to this effect was put forth by the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice K. Chandru, when three public interest litigation petitions filed by the AIADMK, MDMK and the BJP came up for hearing on Thursday.

Making it clear that they will neither postpone the poll schedule nor order removal of the State Election Commissioner (SEC), the Judges asked the Government Pleader to convey the Government stand on Saturday.

Earlier, they made it clear that they were not satisfied with the case and that no court had powers to remove an authority such as the State Election Commissioner.

Referring to the January 12 split verdict by a Division Bench, the Judges said though there was criticism and strictures were passed, the Bench had directed only the SEC to hold the fresh polls to 99 wards in Chennai Corporation by deploying additional security.

They also told AIADMK counsel that no prayer to conduct the polls under the aegis of an independent authority had been made before the Bench.

As for counsel's submission that the incumbent SEC was the brother in-law of a Minister, the Judges asked, "Assuming he is the relative of a Minister, under what provision of law can the court issue quo warranto to him?"

Lot of controversy

The Bench told the Government Pleader that there was a lot of controversy over the polls and 98 elected councillors had resigned en masse when their "clean and clear" victory became an issue. In this regard, the Bench said a former Chief Election Commissioner or a Judge could be asked to be an independent authority, "only if it was agreeable to the other side (Government)."

Reiterating that they were not casting any stigma or expressing any opinion, the Judges said, "We express our suggestion that the Government may consider" nominating an independent authority. "It is for the Government or the SEC to consider."

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