The local body elections which have been delayed by close to a year may finally see light after a Madras High Court ruling on Monday. The High Court ordered that elections be conducted in the state by mid-November. The Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (TNSEC) was ordered to issue a notification by September 18 and complete the entire process by November 17.
According to reports, the first division bench comprising of Chief Justice Indrani Banerjee and Justice M Sundar passed the order on a set of writ petitions. These also included an appeal preferred by the TNSEC, challenging a single judge order on the issue as well as an appeal from the DMK of speedy execution of elections.
The civic polls were scheduled for October 2016 but were later put on hold by the Madras High Court, based on a batch of petitions including one filed by the DMK. The High Court passed the orders on the ground that there is â€śno level playing field available to all partiesâ€ť and that the state government â€śdid not give sufficient time to other parties to get ready for the electionsâ€ť. The single judge bench also ordered the State Election Commission to issue fresh dates for local body polls by December 31, 2016.
A delimitation was proposed for local bodies to decide the number of members to be elected by each local body. It was to help redraw boundaries of wards wherever required and also identify wards to be reserved for SC and ST communities.
In February, a division bench of the Madras HC ordered the State Election Commission to complete the polls by May 14.
However, the Commission asked for more time to conduct the elections. In July, the State Election Commission told the Madras High Court that it was facing practical hindrances to conduct the elections. When the court directed it to conduct the elections by August 31, the Commission said without implementing the nine directions issued by the single judge, it was practically impossible to conduct the elections.
"The Election Commission once again argued that elections can only be conducted after the delimitation exercise and the Tamil Nadu government also said it was ready. But the court dismissed their arguments," said DMK lawyer P Wilson, to the media. "By November 17 elections have to be conducted except if the Supreme Court has any contradictory orders on the matter," he added.
The apex Court is hearing appeals filed by the DMK for a direction to declare the Tamil Nadu Municipal Laws (2nd Amendment) Act, 2016 and Tamil Nadu (2nd Amendment) Act, 2016 as ultra vires. This is to reportedly enable the delimitation of wards and reservation of seats in Urban and Rural Local Bodies election in 2016, to be according to 2011 census.
The Supreme Court had said in August that failure to hold local body elections in October 2016 had nothing to do with the determination of wards. This is being done on the basis of 2011 population census by the Delimitation Commission set up by the state in July 2017. The next hearing in the matter will be on September 6.