The High Court division bench on Monday passed an interim order restraining the State Election Commission (SEC) from declaring calendar of events for BBMP election temporarily. The court passed the interim order as the hearing of the petition filed by the State government against the HC single bench order to conduct election before May 30th 2015, was not completed on Monday. The final hearing of the case has been posted to April 22nd.
Division bench comprising of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy passed an interim order since the SEC had not yet announced the election schedule. “As of now the election programme is not declared, any further proceedings including declaration of election programme need to be stayed even as the court proposes to hear the appeals for final disposal on April 22nd,” the order said.
HC takes a dig at the State Election Commission
During the hearing, the Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar submitted before the court two circumstances due to which election need not be held immediately. He said the government has dissolved the BBMP council based on the charges of corruption as reported by CAG, Lokayukta and Kataria committee. An administrator has been appointed to look after the functioning of the council till a new local body is formed. Secondly, the government has held an emergency session on Monday to pass a bill on trifurcating the BBMP. If the bill is passed, the BBMP will naturally cease to exist.
The bench asked the counsel appearing on behalf of the SEC about the preparedness of Election Commission to conduct polls. The counsel admitted that though the SEC was ready to conduct election on time, it was yet to declare the polling schedule. The counsel pointed that only the council was dissolved and the BBMP continues to exist, hence the election could be held.
The court took a dig at the SEC for the delay in carrying out the election process. Had the Election Commission commenced the poll work in advance, the present situation might not have arisen. By now the election process should have been completed. “You (SEC) have made contempt of Constitution,” the bench remarked.
The SEC had called for a press meet on Monday at 4 pm, to declare the calendar of events for holding the election. But the programme has been cancelled due to the HC order.
Meanwhile, Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) has moved a PIL raising contention that under any circumstance, elections to the existing BBMP will have to be held, irrespective of its dissolution or proposed trifurcation. This will be heard on Wednesday, April 22nd.
Legislative assembly passes the bill to enable division
On the other end, a bill to amend the Karnataka Municipal Council Act was passed at the emergency legislative session convened on Monday. The government made the move after Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Patel rejected the ordinance to trifurcate BBMP.
The bill was passed amid opposition from the opposite party legislatures. Opposition leaders Jagadish Shettar (BJP) and H D Kumaraswamy (JDS) opposed the bill and stressed that there was no need for trifurcating Palike, but there is only a need for decentralisation. The bill has to be now passed in the legislative council. The next session has been scheduled for April 23rd.
Even if the bill is passed in legislative council, it has to be signed by the Governor Vajubhai Patel, who embarked on a Gujarat tour on Monday, leading to speculations that it was a tactic to avoid signing the bill.
Six months’ wait for election?
With all the developments that have taken place on Monday April 20th, it seems like the BBMP election might not be held anytime soon. Section 99 of KMC Act and 74th amendment to the Constitution allows the government to dissolve the civic body on the charges of inefficiency.
If the civic body is dissolved, it has to be reconstituted before the expiry of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution. The High Court divisional bench too on Monday said that after dissolution of the council, the court cannot fix a date for conducting election, but can only ask the government to submit its side of schedule and plan of action.
After dissolving the BBMP on Friday (April 17th), the government appointed senior IAS officer T M Vijay Bhaskar as the Administrator of the Council. In a separate hearing, the High Court has asked him not to take any policy decisions until the court case is heard and orders passed.
In yet another development, another IAS officer G Kumar Naik was appointed as the BBMP Commissioner. He has replaced outgoing Commissioner Lakshminarayana.