Complete process of Municipal polls within 6 months: DB to State

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Apr 30: Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur has directed State to complete the election process of Municipal Corporations, Councils and Committees within a period of six months.
This significant direction has been passed in a petition filed by Dr H R Sharma, a retired Professor of University of Jammu and social activist, praying for issuance of directions to the respondents to hold the elections of various Municipal Committees, Councils and Corporations as per the mandate of the Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Act, 2000 as elections were due in the year 2010.
The DB observed, “the petition was taken on file on 28.04.2015 and on 05.05.2015 notice was issued to the respondents. S S Nanda, Senior AAG accepted the notice and four weeks’ time was sought for filing response”, adding “on 09.06.2015, the Senior Additional Advocate General was directed to get instructions from the Government regarding the schedule of elections to be conducted under the J&K Municipal Act, 2000”.
Again time was sought by the Senior AAG on 01.07.2015, 29.07.2015 and 24.08.2015 respectively. Thereafter, a status report was filed mentioning that after receiving the directions from the Government, the preparation of the Electoral rolls in respect of the Municipal Councils/Municipal Committees in the State as envisaged under Rule 12 of the J&K Municipal (Election) Rules, 2003 was conducted. Even the summary revision of Municipal Electoral Rolls for Municipal Councils/ Committees was ordered on 26.02.2016 listing the schedule. Similarly, the summary revision of Municipal Electoral Rolls for Municipal Corporations on 01.01.2016 was also fixed.
“It is also mentioned in the status report that as per Section 10-A of the Act, the Chief Electoral Officer was appointed as competent authority for notifying the wards to be reserved for Women/Schedule Castes/ Schedule Tribes in the Municipal Corporations of the State and for that purpose a notice was issued on 26.02.2016 calling for objections”, the DB observed, adding “it is also stated that the process to conduct Municipal elections is underway and will be notified as soon as Electoral Rolls in respect of Municipal Committees/ Councils/ Corporations are completed”.
As per the schedule, the last date for final publication of Electoral Rolls for Municipal Councils/Committees was fixed as 28.03.2016 and for Municipal Corporations the publication of final Electoral Rolls was fixed as 31.03.2016. When the matter was listed on 05.04.2016, the counsel appearing for the Chief Electoral Officer prayed for time to get instructions regarding the schedule of elections to be announced and the matter was posted for 11.04.2016.
On 11.04.2016, the Advocate General requested for time to get instructions on this issue and the time was granted up to 21.04.2016. Thereafter, the matter was listed for today. However, there was no positive response from the Chief Electoral Officer or from respondents and the Advocate General submitted that an outer limit be fixed.
“The Act mandates holding of elections to Municipal Committees/Councils/Corporations within six months before the expiry of office of previously elected members/Board and the period having been over the respondents are not expected to disobey the statutory requirement”, the DB said, adding “due to non-availability of elected members/board, the funds allocated for various purposes to local bodies under 13th Finance Commission could not be utilized. Even the funds sanctioned under 14th Finance Commission could not be utilized due to which welfare activities have been stalled”.
“The duty is cast on the part of Government to conduct the elections forthwith”, the DB said while drawing the attention towards the judgment of Supreme Court in case titled Kishansingh Tomar Versus Municipal Corporation Ahmedabad wherein the Apex Court while dealing with the question of revision of electoral rolls by the State Election Commission, noticed that the Election Commission shall complete the election before the expiry of the duration of five years’ period as stipulated in clause (9) of Article 243-U of the Constitution.
“The respondents shall finalize the schedule of dates to conduct the elections to the Urban Local Bodies within a period of three months and complete the elections process for all the Urban Local Bodies within a period of three months there from”, the DB said, adding “as the date has to be fixed by the respondents taking note of various factors, we are leaving same to the Chief Electoral Officer, who in consultation with the appropriate authority, shall take immediate steps to announce the schedule”.

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