Chief Jus­tice up­set at govt. state­ments in SC

‘Fail­ure on polls has led to con­sti­tu­tional breakdown’

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

The Chief Jus­tice of Madras High Court, Indira Ban­er­jee, on Tues­day ex­pressed dis­plea­sure over the State gov­ern­ment hav­ing at­trib­uted “wrong and ir­re­spon­si­ble” state­ments to a Bench led by her while ar­gu­ing a case in the Supreme Court on the open­ing of liquor shops along the high­ways.

The Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (DMK) on Tues­day went ham­mer and tongs at the Tamil Nadu State Elec­tion Com­mis­sion as well as the State Gov­ern­ment for avoid­ing the con­duct of local body polls on one pre­text or an­other and con­tended that there was a “con­sti­tu­tional breakdown” in the State due to its fail­ure to en­sure timely elec­tions.

Se­nior Coun­sel P. Wil­son, rep­re­sent­ing the DMK, made the sub­mis­sion be­fore the first Di­vi­sion Bench of Chief Jus­tice Indira Ban­er­jee and Jus­tice M. Sun­dar while ar­gu­ing a con­tempt of court ap­pli­ca­tion filed by the party against Chief Sec­re­tary Gir­ija Vaidyanathan and State Elec­tion Com­mis­sioner M. Ma­lik Feroze Khan, among oth­ers. The con­tempt ap­pli­ca­tion had been filed for al­legedly dis­obey­ing an or­der passed by the court on a batch of writ ap­peals, in­clud­ing one filed by the DMK, on Septem­ber 4 di­rect­ing the Com­mis­sion to is­sue a no­ti­fi­ca­tion for the local body polls by Septem­ber 18 and com­plete the en­tire process by Novem­ber 17.

Mr. Khan con­tended that the elec­tions could not be con­ducted due to an or­di­nance pro­mul­gated by the gov­ern­ment on Septem­ber 3 re­peal­ing cer­tain le­gal pro­vi­sions re­lated to ter­ri­to­rial di­vi­sion of civic bod­ies into wards and thereby cre­at­ing a pe­cu­liar sit­u­a­tion where “there ex­ists no wards” as on date.

How­ever, terming it to be “a larger game played by the gov­ern­ment in con­nivance with the State Elec­tion Com­mis­sion,” Mr. Wil­son said that pro­pri­ety would re­quire the gov­ern­ment to have sought the leave of the court be­fore pro­mul­gat­ing the Or­di­nance since the Bench had al­ready heard the writ ap­peals at length and re­served its ver­dict dur­ing that time.

“In fact, your lord­ships had listed the mat­ter on Septem­ber 1 (Fri­day) for pro­nounc­ing or­ders. On that day, there was no sit­ting and so it was posted on Septem­ber 4. On Sun­day (Septem­ber 3), they bring in an Or­di­nance and re­peal cer­tain pro­vi­sions with­out re­al­is­ing that even af­ter the re­peal, sub­stan­tive pro­vi­sions of the law re­lated to local bod­ies re­main un­af­fected,” he said.

“By re­peal­ing these pro­vi­sions and re­mov­ing them from the statute books, it does not mean the Com­mis­sion is help­less. What is re­quired is a sim­ple no­ti­fi­ca­tion. It is the con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion of the elec­tion com­mis­sioner to con­duct the elec­tions,” he ar­gued.

The Bench ad­journed fur­ther hear­ing to Thurs­day.

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