The Division Bench of the High Court of Karnataka which has completed the hearing of the State government’s appeal against the Single Bench order to conduct BBMP polls before May 30th, has posted the judgment to April 24th, 2015. The court also extended the interim stay refraining the State Election Commission (SEC) from continuing the election procedures till the verdict.
During the day-long hearing that took place on April 22nd, the division bench sought to know from the petitioners and the respondents if the six months outer limit to hold the election after dissolving the council is applicable to before the end of five year’s council term or even after the term ends.
While the Advocate General representing the government argued that the six months period to hold the election after dissolving the council could be even after the end of five years term of the council, counsels appearing for the State Election Commission argued that six months outer limit was applicable only before the end of term.
Senior counsel Sajjan Poovaiah who argued on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on behalf of Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) on the same issue too stressed that the constitution gives the right to the citizens not to be deprived of the elected council after the end of the elected body’s term. “The five year election cycle can not be disrupted,” he stated, adding that it might set a precedent for other governments to use dissolution as a tool to postpone elections.
When the judges asked the government to submit the timeframe within which it would be ready for the election, Advocate General assured of holding the election within six months as per the constitutional provision, soon after the completion of BBMP restructuring, delimitation and reservation of wards.
The SEC counsel requested the court to allow them to conduct the election on time in accordance with the Single Bench order. The SEC has completed the election preparations, and only declaring the election schedule is pending. The counsel also revealed that the Commission had issued 15 notices to the government in last two years to supply reservation roster, but the government neither responded to any of the notices nor sent its representatives to participate in election-related meetings.
Judges see lack of genuine intent
Both the judges pointed out at the presence of an ulterior motive behind the government dissolving the BBMP council only when two days were left for the election term to end. “You dissolved the council two days before the term ends, purposefully so that you can get six months time to hold the next election. Why didn’t the government commence the process of restructuring, delimitation of wards and reservation well in advance? Can this provision of dissolution be made use for a situation like this? The Supreme Court has time and again directed to the Election Commission to complete election on time to avoid vested interests who try to prevent timely polls,” opined Justice Ram Mohan Reddy.
Advocate General defended the government’s decision and said that dissolution decision was taken based on Kataria committee report on BBMP irregularities. To this, Chief Justice D H Waghela asked why the government formed the committee when only a month was left for the BBMP council term to end hand why it did not form the committee to probe into irregularities a few months ago. “It is a man made calamity and we see lack of bona fide intent on the part of the government,” the Chief Justice observed.