Supreme Court reserves order on local body elections in Tamil Nadu

Supreme Court, Single Judge, anticipatory bail, Chief Justice of India, Lockdown
As per a notice issued by the top court on its website on Monday, besides other amendments the competent authority has provided that certain categories of matters may be "heard and disposed of finally by a judge sitting singly nominated by the Chief Justice". Photo: PTI

Local body elections can be held in all districts of Tamil Nadu except the nine which were reconstituted this year, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday (December 5) while hearing a petition filed by the DMK. However, a bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde reserved it order in the case.

Four districts – Kancheepuram, Trichy, Vellore and Tirunelveli – were this year bifurcated to create five new districts – Chengalpattu, Kallakurichi, Ranipet, Tirupattur and Tenkasi. The delimitation process for the newly formed districts are yet to be carried out.

The State Election Commission had announced the dates for elections in several posts of rural bodies, such as panchayat presidents, ward members, panchayat union councillors and district union councillors, even before the delimitation process could be completed.

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The DMK had filed a petition in the top court seeking to stay the local body elections until the delimitation process is completed. It sought the elections be held together in rural and urban local bodies. However, during the hearing, the State Election Commission told the court it can conduct local body elections in all districts except the nine reconstituted ones.

Meanwhile, panchayat raj activists alleged the state has not made public the details of the reservations of blocks to SC/ST, Women and General candidates for rural local bodies.

Senthil Arumugam, general secretary, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam said the gazette has details of reservations of wards for Chennai corporation, Town panchayats, municipalities and district panchayats, but not about the rural panchayats.

“The state government told the court it made such reservations and published it in the gazette. But for political reasons the government has not made the rural ward reservation details public,” he said.

One reason why the government is hiding the details is, he said, in the last three years it has not taken any concrete actions to redefine the wards. “They are hiding the details to avoid being questioned regarding this. It is possible the government can use the 2016 ward reservation in the last moment,” he said.

This has created problems for those interested in contesting in the elections, Arumugam said. “We are running helplines to guide people how to file their nominations. Many call us and ask whether their wards are reserved for women, SC/ST or general. Due to this confusion, their campaigning also gets affected,” he added.

Local body polls in Tamil Nadu are scheduled on December 27 and 30.

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