13 Mar 2021  |   06:04am IST

SC upholds HC order halting polls in 5 municipalities

Censures Goa government; Asks State to reserve seats for women and then hold polls; Government official can’t be Election Commissioner, rules SC
SC upholds HC order halting polls in 5 municipalities

Team Herald

NEW DELHI: Dismissing the Goa government appeal on the High Court of Bombay at Goa ruling halting the election process in five councils, the Supreme Court on Friday censured the government for appointing its Law Secretary as the State Election Commissioner to conduct the municipal elections in the State.

In a major judgment to be effective ‘across the length and breadth of the country’, the Supreme Court ruled that no government employee can be appointed as an election commissioner. The ruling aims at ensuring independence of the State Election Commissions that conduct civic and panchayat elections.

A Bench comprising Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice B R Gavai, also directed the State Election Commission to issue a notification for the elections in five municipal councils within 10 days and complete the election process by April 30. It also censured the law secretary-turned election commissioner for his attempt to overrule the High Court decision.

The Apex Court directed the Goa government to appoint an independent election commissioner to conduct the elections and upheld the High Court order, stayed earlier by it, directing the State government to notify the reservations in the five municipals within 10 days, as mandated under the law.

Calling appointment of a serving officer as an election commissioner as a ‘disturbing feature’, the Court said no such appointment be made henceforth by the Centre or the State government. It said a government official taking charge of the elections is a ‘mockery of democracy’.

The ruling came on the Goa government’s appeal against the March 1 order of the High Court of Bombay at Goa order that had cancelled elections to five municipalities in the State for not reserving seats for women as per the law.

The Apex Court on March 4 stayed the High Court order to allow elections in the municipal councils of Margao, Mormugao, Mapusa, Sanguem and Quepem and the State Election Commission had accordingly already issued a notification, rescheduling the polling in the five municipal councils on March 21, besides the elections due in 11 other municipal councils on March 20 which the High Court had allowed to continue.

Besides the Goa government, five others – Fauziya Imtiaz Shaikh, Ronaldo Fernandes, Manuel Colaco, Michael Carrasco and Gaurav Madkaikar – had also filed petitions challenging the State government's attempt to get the High Court order quashed.

DMA will rectify errors: CM
Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant on Friday said that the Directorate of Municipal Administration will rectify errors committed by them during the reservation of wards in five municipal councils.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s observation that the Central and State governments should not appoint persons holding government office as election commissioners, Sawant said that the court’s instructions will be strictly adhered to. 
According to Sawant, many States have appointed serving IAS or government officers as State Election Commissioners in their respective States. Till now there were no strict instructions on such appointments, he said adding that the Goa government will now appoint a full-fledged State Election Commissioner (SEC).
Currently Secretary of government, Chokha Ram Garg is functioning as the Goa State Election Commissioner and all the works/departments allocated to him were given to another IAS officer.
Meanwhile, elections for the lone Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) and six municipal councils of Pernem, Bicholim, Valpoi, Cuncolim, Curchorem-Cacora and Canacona will be held as per schedule on March 20. 
Deputy Chief Minister Babu Kavalekar said that the Supreme Court verdict will not have any adverse effect on the success of BJP-backed panels in the five municipal council elections.

Election process to be revised, 
new SEC to be appointed: AG
Advocate General Devidas Pangam on Friday said that the election process in five municipal councils will be revised and one-third of the wards will be reserved for women as per the judgement of the High Court of Bombay at Goa. He also said that a full-fledged Goa State Election Commissioner (GSEC) would be appointed within 24 hours.
Pangam said that since the Supreme Court has upheld the order of the High Court, Directorate of Municipal Administration will follow the order and ensure that one-third of the total wards in five municipal councils of Mormugao, Margao, Mapusa, Quepem and Sanguem are reserved for women candidates.
To a question, Pangam said that Goa State Election Commissioner Chokha Ram Garg will also be replaced immediately and a new full-fledged GSEC will be appointed within next 24 hours. The Apex Court has asked the Central and State government not to appoint in-service government officer as election commissioners and to appoint independent persons. 


Iddhar Udhar