29 Jun 2022  |   07:57am IST

Will govt learn its lesson?

Finally, the High Court of Bombay at Goa has directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to decide the dates for village panchayat elections and complete the process within 45 days.

The SEC put the ball in government’s court by saying that since the latter did not issue notification according to provisions of law, it could not hold the elections. 

The Commission's stand in the court meant that the government did not have anything to say in defence of its weird decision to postpone Panchayat elections arbitrarily. 

SEC had proposed to hold elections on five different dates. However, the SEC claimed that no elections could be held for want of the State Government issuing Notification under Rule 10(1) of the Goa Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat (Election Procedure) Rules, 1996, regarding the date for holding of the election. The State Government refuted this charge though. It said that the SEC was responsible for the failure.

The SEC maintained that it was eager and capable of completing the election process within thirty days from the State Government notifying the date under rule 10(1) of the Election procedure rules, 1996. The State Government, however, insisted that elections in monsoons was not conducive, and they consciously decided to postpone them to September 2022

However, the court was not convinced and asked the authorities to complete the election process in 45 days, pointing towards importance given to local bodies by 73rd and 74th amendments. 

The question now is, will the government learn from this embarrassment? Government has messed up in the same way it did during municipality ward reservations process. The reservations were approved in an arbitrary manner, showing that it was designed to unsettle the opposition. 

The High Court had given a verdict against it. The government did not agree to it. It approached the Supreme Court. Apex court upheld the High Court's decision. 

After municipal elections, it is time for panchayat elections now. The government’s attitude hasn’t changed.  

The government blames social workers for stalling development projects by approaching courts, but actually, they are forced to knock the court’s door due to the unreasonable decisions of the establishment. 

The issue of OBC reservation is being also cited for this delay in holding elections. But this problem is not just limited to our State. The BJP government at the centre stripped the States off its rights in 2018 by amending the 102nd Constitution. 

Maratha reservation in neighbouring state of Maharashtra was cancelled, spreading outrage in the state. The Centre had to amend 127th constitution existing from 1950 in order to give the rights back to the State. Meanwhile, the government could not furnish caste-wise data, and hence the Supreme Court had to ask the State to hold election sans reservation. 

The OBC community has to suffer in approximately 9 lakh wards throughout the country. Had the OBCs been more active and aware, the country would have seen another outrage. However, such thing didn’t happen. The OBC youth is still fuming. The court while giving its order had said, the elections cannot be postponed only because the reservation is not in place. It was necessary for the state government to issue a notification to hold elections.  

The issue of reservations for OBCs will have to be carefully handled, as the data of political backwardness will be important. Socio-economic Caste Census (SECC) was completed between 2011 and 2014 in the country. The reservations have to be given on the above basis, and whether a new census will be carried out, is unknown. 

The Government's policy about reservation is vague as of now. The country has spent five hundred crores to conduct the census. At least use this information for panchayat reservation.


Idhar Udhar