Supreme Court to hear DMK plea challenging validity of local bodies’ poll notification
Krishnadas RajagopalNEW DELHI 09 DECEMBER 2019 19:09 ISTUPDATED: 09 DECEMBER 2019 19:14 IST
It deserves to be set aside for defying reservation procedure, Apex Court told
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to urgently hear a petition filed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) challenging the validity of a December 7 local bodies’ elections notification issued by the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission.
In an oral mentioning before a Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari for the DMK, which is Tamil Nadu’s largest Opposition party, said the notification defies reservation procedure provided under Rule 6 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Reservation of Seats and Rotation of Reserved Seats) Rules of 1995.
The notification said the reservation of wards, seats for women and the SCs and the STs would be done as per a September 16, 2016 reservation notification, which was issued on the basis of a 1991 population census.
“It is an admitted position of fact that post 2016, a fresh delimitation exercise has been carried out in the State in 2018, with the help of the 2011 census. The entire demographic basis of the State has changed and therefore, reservation provided as per the 2016 notification will have no legal or factual sanctity in this case. The wards, boundaries, populations in the State of Tamil Nadu have been changed and providing reservation, as per the 2016 notification, is on the face of it illegal and the election notification deserves to be set aside,” the DMK petition, drafted by Mr. Tiwari, said.
Mr. Singhvi argued that the notification, surprisingly, does not take into account the obvious fact that a new delimitation exercise was completed in the State in 2018 taking into consideration the 2011 census. It is as if the 2011 census never happened.
The December 7 notification was issued after the Supreme Court ordered the State, on the previous day, to conduct panchayat elections in all the districts except the nine newly carved ones. The polls there would be held after four months.
Making State Election Commissioner R. Palanisamy a party in person, the DMK said: “The State Election Commissioner, who is also the chairman of Delimitation Commission under the Delimitation Act 2017, is entrusted twin functions of delimitation and reservation of local bodies pursuant to which notifications are issued by the government… Therefore, as far as providing reservations of SC/ST/Women to the post of Chairpersons and other offices of local bodies, the population of the entire State [consisting of all districts] shall be the unit.”
The petition said the nine new districts should also be considered as part of the ‘unit’ and delimitation cannot happen in them in isolation.
It argued that the entire State needs to be taken as “one unit” for providing proportionate reservation to respective categories in respect of the post of chairman of district panchayats. This is mandated under Rule 6 of the 1995 Tamil Nadu Panchayat Rules.
“Any reduction or addition without the correct data will hamper the proper representation of the SC/ST and women in the scheme of self-government enunciated by the Constitution,” the petition said.
Finally, the petition complained of the lack of level-playing field available to all the parties. “The ruling party obviously had prior information about the date of election, the manner and places of reservation. There is not sufficient time given to the other parties in Tamil Nadu to get ready for elections. The Election Commission is rushing through the procedure in a hurried manner, thereby causing prejudice to the other contesting parties,” the petition said.
It asked the court to quash the December 7 notification, which was issued in a “tearing hurry” by the State Election Commission.