PANJIM: Amidst chaos, dissent and vociferous demands for division of votes by the Opposition, the State Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed the controversial Goa Municipalities (Amendment) Ordinance Bill 2022, allowing the election of the Chairperson and Vice-chairperson of Municipal Councils by a show of hands.
The Opposition, stating that the new law will wreak irreparable damage to democracy at the local governing body level, demanded that the Bill be sent to the Select Committee for detailed study. They also termed the amendment as a “virus” which will spread in multiple folds and destroy democracy. They also requested the Speaker to hold a division of votes for the passing of the Bill.
Notwithstanding the opposition’s demand, Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar passed the Bill with majority.
As per the amendment moved by the Minister for Municipal Administration Vishwajit Rane, the requirement of a secret ballot becomes a futile exercise and leaves “tremendous scope for discrepancies and undue influence on the councillors by vested interests, while casting their votes”.
“Hence, the Bill seeks to insert a second provision to sub- section (3) of Section 52 of the Goa Municipalities Act, 1968 (Act 7 of 1969) so that the election of Chairperson or Vice- Chairperson is held by show of hands,” the Bill said.
Raising strong objections to the Bill, Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao said that as per law, every elected councillor should have the right to secrecy and that cannot be denied. He said that by mentioning “influence on the councillors by vested interests”, the government has done character assassination of the councillors, who are elected by the people.
“If this Bill is passed, you (Speaker) will remain in history as the murderer of democracy,” he said.
“This is going to turn into a virus, which will multiply and spread and destroy democracy,” Alemao added.
GFP MLA Vijai Sardesai said that it is unfortunate that to satisfy the “ego” of one elected member (MLA), such an amendment has been brought, which is harmful to democracy. He said that Pramod Sawant, despite being Chief Minister, never made any effort to pull down the Sanquelim Municipal council, which is his constituency.
“Those people who cannot manage the council are bringing such laws. This is a shame,” Sardesai said while assuring the House that he will back the existing Margao council if the government withdraws the Bill.
“I have ten councillors, we will support you.I assure you we will not try to pull down the council, if you agree to take back the Bill,” he said.
Demanding that the Bill needs to be sent to the Select Committee, Sardesai said that it will set a bad trend across local governing bodies, including panchayats.