State Election Commissioner should quit

By Prabhakar Timble
02 March 2021 10:28 IST

All eyes were on the High Court on the outcome of the petition challenging the notification in respect of delimitation and reservation of wards in Municipalities of Goa. The notification was done by the Directorate of Municipal Administration at the nick of time. The State Election Commission announced the election schedule despite knowing that reservations were done in opaque manner and without following a common intelligible criteria.

The SEC was well aware that petitions were filed challenging the notification. By announcing the election schedule the SEC ostensibly was trying to checkmate the petitioners and strengthen the vested interests in the government to carry forward the partisan and unfair agenda.

The conduct of the State Election Commissioner was unbecoming of a statutory body as it was to deny the right of the affected petitioners to redress genuine grievances. It would not be wrong to accuse that the Commissioner acted in collusion with the ruling powers.

It is a precedent that courts do not interfere with the election process once announced. The SEC was basically banking on this precedent, thereby equally acting partisan. This is not expected from a statutory and autonomous body. This itself raises doubts on the independence of the present State Election Commissioner.

Theoretically, the SEC is an independant and statutory body. Its commitment is to conduct free, fair and just elections to local self-governing bodies.However, its deplorable that the SEC showed commitment to the government and sacrificed its independence. Undoubtedly, the people's confidence in the present SEC is at rock bottom.

The government of the day will abuse its powers. The BJP is well known for that. They are known for destroying the Constitution by giving a semblance that they stand within parameters of the Constitution. However, it is expected that statutory authorities like SEC will stand erect and independent to safeguard the interests of all and provide level playing field to all.

Reservations are a part of constitutional requirements. This power is with the Directorate of Municipal Administration. There is nothing wrong in reservation of wards per se. What is illegal and unconstitutional is the partisan way it is done by the government. This power should be delegated to the SEC.  Further, notification of delimitation and reservation should be done one year in advance before fresh elections. These safeguards provide fair opportunites to all. There would be no litigation if notification is done well in advance.

The current case is an attempt to rig Municipal elections by the government. The SEC did nothing to assert. In fact, they stayed silent as if all was well. 

The order of the High Court is on expected lines. On noticing that reservations were not in order, the HC provided opportunity to the State Election Commissioner to act within its inherent power. The Commissioner has the powers to reject if the notification violates the provisions of the Municipalities Act and the directions enunciated in the Constitution. As SEC pleaded inability, there was no alternative for the Court except to intervene and direct for fresh notification and accordingly rescheduling elections to Municipal Councils.

This judgement exposes the political interference of the BJP government in reservations. It also exposes that not only the DMA but also a statutory and autonomous body like the SEC was a pawn in the hands of the ruling party.It is clear that the current SEC is a caged parrot.

If the same SEC continues, people and stakeholders will not repose confidence in the election process. This SEC should not continue in office in the interests of free, fair and just elections to local self-governing bodies.

The government should respect the order of the High Court and correct the illegalities in the notification. However, it appears that the government wants to act stubborn and appeal to the Supreme Court holding the contention that the Courts cannot interfere or stay the elections once the election schedule is declared. 

In the instant case, the High Court has in no way stayed the elections. The order of the High Court directs the government to issue a fresh notification in respect of reservation of wards to Municipal Councils and further directs the SEC to issue a fresh schedule of elections. It is an order to correct the illegalities and constitutional violations.

The High Court provided the required opportunity to the government and the SEC to act on its own. The High Court has not violated any established precedents but has asserted its power to correct the constitutional wrongs in the interests of grass-roots democracy and for a free, fair and just elections to local bodies.

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Election in Goa should be with BALLOT PAPER and not with EVM.

- Jack De Goan, Goa | 03 rd March 2021 16:27

 

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