Tamil Nadu

SC puts on hold local polls in 9 new TN districts

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There shall be no legal impediment in holding the elections in the remaining districts of Tamil Nadu

The Supreme Court on Friday gave Tamil Nadu four months to complete the delimitation of its nine newly constituted districts and conduct panchayat elections in them at village, intermediate and district levels. Meanwhile, the scheduled local body elections would be held in the remaining districts.

“There shall be no legal impediment against holding elections for panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels for rest of the districts,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde held.

On Thursday, during the hearing, the State government had blinked when the court firmly stood in favour of conducting de novo delimitation for the nine districts before holding elections in them. It then agreed to exempt the nine reconstituted districts of Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Vellore, Thirupatthur, Ranipeti, Villupuram, Kallakuruchi, Tirunelveli and Tenkasi from the current local body elections. It went on to submit later in the day a one-page proposal to the Bench, saying polls to the nine districts would have to wait considering the “extraordinary facts and circumstances” arising out of the bifurcation/trifurcation.

In its 13-page judgment on Friday, the court reiterated the need to conduct fresh delimitation exercise as a follow-up to the creation of new districts. 

The CJI wrote that the constitutional object of Part IX (panchayat system of governance) cannot be “effectively achieved unless the delimitation exercise for constitution of local bodies at all levels is properly undertaken”.

The court observed, “Noticing how at the completion of the delimitation process there were only 31 revenue districts, but despite a subsequent increase in the number of districts to 39, no fresh delimitation exercise has been undertaken, it is clear that the State government cannot fulfil the constitutional mandate.”

Presently, the State has no identified data on population proportions in the nine new districts. “Hence, requisite reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes cannot be provided for, both in the village panchayat wards or Chairman/Vice Chairman of District bodies. We hence have no doubt that the election process as notified by the State Election Commission on December 2, 2019, in respect of the newly constituted nine districts cannot be held unless fresh delimitation exercise in respect thereto is first completed,” the court reasoned.

It ordered the State Election Commission to issue a fresh notification clarifying that polls in the nine new districts have been put off for now. It specifically directed the State to comply with the one-third reservation mandated for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and 50% quota for Other Backward Classes in the offices of panchayat presidents, panchayat union councils chairmen and district panchayats' chairpersons as provided under Rule 6 of Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Reservation of Seats and Rotation of Reserved Seats) Rules, 1995.

Advocate General Vijay Narayanan told The Hindu, “Tamil Nadu is one of the most prominent States that provides reservation to this extent.” 

The judgment came on an application filed by the DMK to strike down the December 2, 2019 local body polls notification. The party said elections should be held in all the 39 revenue districts only after delimitation exercise was carried out in the nine new districts.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 3:31:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/supreme-court-puts-on-hold-local-body-polls-in-9-newly-carved-out-tn-districts/article30208183.ece

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