Govt postpones municipal polls, appoints administrators


In blatant violation of the constitutional provision, the Goa government has decided to appoint administrators on the municipalities and hold elections after six months, though their term expires next month.

While announcing the cabinet decision in this regard on Wednesday, chief minister Francisco Sardinha however could not substantiate it with any legal powers the government enjoys to postpone the elections.

"It is purely a hypothesis. We have followed such a practice in the past and there is no harm in exercising it once again even if the law does not provide for it", claims Sardinha.

Out of 14 municipalities, term of 11 elected municipal councils ends on 20 June while elections for one newly constituted municipality is yet to be held. Term of the rest of the two municipal councils including Panaji expires next year.

While postponing elections of the city-based local self-governing bodies by appointing administrators was a common practice even in Goa for several years now, the 74th constitutional amendment had come as a big relief as it makes elections mandatory once the five-year term ends.

"We are aware that law does not provide for it. But we have no other alternative", admits urban development minister Francisco D'Souza, who also holds the law portfolio. He claims that his government is caught up in a peculiar situation.

The reasons cited for postponing the elections are amendment to the rules of elections as well as delimitation of two municipal councils as the locals in some of these areas want to revert back to the village panchayat system.

"This cannot be a valid reason for postponement", feels Prabhakar Timble, the state election commission, recalling that he had requested the concerned government authorities way back in December to get the rules amended and get prepared for elections in June.

Timble is prepared to conduct elections even without getting the rules amended, if the government is citing it as a prime reason to postpone the electoral process defined by the constitution. "They have powers neither to extend the polls nor to appoint the administrators", he asserts.

Minguel Mascarenhes, one former councillor, had already served a notice on the government in anticipation of the current development, while also threatening to approach the court. "We will tell the court that we are helpless", says the law minister, hinting clearly that the whole process would give them enough time to politically manoeuvre the scene.

In a similar manner, in collusion with all the political parties, the state government sat down on the first-even constitution of zilla panchayats for over six years, till the court finally intervened to force the state to hold the polls in February. The elected members are however still struggling for powers.

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