TAMIL NADU

Assembly passes Panchayats Bill; Opposition puts up stiff resistance

Aims at removing age restriction on State Election Commissioner

Special correspondent

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Second Amendment) Bill, 2005, aimed at removing restrictions such as age and the maximum period of holding office of the Tamil Nadu State Election Commissioner (SEC), was passed in the Assembly on Thursday despite stiff resistance put up by the Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Pattali Makkal Katchi.

The Bill was introduced by Local Administration Minister K.P. Anbazhagan to replace an Ordinance promulgated on July 11.

The House rejected a resolution moved by Congress Legislature Party leader S.R. Balasubramoniyan, calling for disapproval of the Ordinance.

According to the sub-section (2) of Section 239 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, the SEC "shall hold office for a term of two years and shall be eligible for reappointment for two successive terms." It also laid down that the SEC cannot hold the office for more than six years in the aggregate and should retire on completion of the age of 62 years during the term of his office, the Bill said. Mr. Balasubramoniyan said the office of the SEC was treated on a par with a judge of the High Court and Secretary to State Government. No official in the rank of State Government Secretary could continue in office after completing 60 years. Extension of service to such officers could be done only by the Centre, he added.

"There is no dearth of talent and competency in the State," he said, adding that the Government's move only showed that it wanted the continuance of the same SEC to conduct the next local body elections even if the present ruling party was out of power. Any decision of the Government should be in the larger interest of society and not to promote individual interests, he added.

Ela. Pugazhendi (DMK) said prejudices might creep in if any person held the post for too long. Flaying the move, he said retirement age and definite term of office were applicable to judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. I. Ganesan (PMK) dubbed the decision "murder of democracy."

Mr. Anbazhagan regretted that the Opposition was attributing motives to the Bill.

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