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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Final ward delimitation for civic polls: HC seeks state response on SEC decision

The court sought to know whether the state government will go ahead with the SEC's decision or if it will invite fresh objections to delimitation.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: May 20, 2022 7:55:22 am
The Bombay High Court (File)

The Bombay High Court on Thursday sought the Maharashtra government’s reply on the decision of the State Election Commission (SEC) on final delimitation of wards for civic body elections.

The court sought to know whether the state government will go ahead with the SEC’s decision or if it will invite fresh objections to delimitation.

The High Court was hearing pleas which claimed that the notification was issued without seeking objections and therefore was not in accordance with municipal law.

The SEC, on January 28, had granted approval to the final draft of ward boundaries and the same was published in the official gazette on February 1, while objections were sought on the same, which were heard by the designated officers of SEC. The officers had sent a report with their recommendations to the SEC on March 5.

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Meanwhile, on March 11, the amended laws by the Maharashtra government came into force, which allowed it to take over the powers of delimitation and ward formation for local body elections, prompting the SEC to pause the delimitation process.

On May 4, in a setback to the Maharashtra government, the Supreme Court asked the SEC to notify election schedule for local bodies within two weeks on the basis of the previous delimitation exercise.

The apex court, while hearing pleas challenging the March 11 decision, noted that the delimitation, as it existed prior to March 11, be taken as “notional” delimitation to conduct “overdue elections”.

Thereafter, the SEC on May 10 directed the commissioners of 14 municipal corporations, including Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, among others, to act as per finalised delimitation of wards and to get the state government’s approval by May 12. The SEC had asked the commissioners to publish finalised delimitation of wards in the gazette by May 17.

On Wednesday, advocate SB Shetye for SEC submitted an affidavit filed by Avinash Sanas, deputy commissioner, SEC, stating that its act issuing final notification as regards to delimitation was in tune with the Supreme Court order and on May 17, the apex court had given further go-ahead to SEC with the process of election, as is undertaken.

A vacation bench of Justices Nitin Sambre and Anil Pansare on Thursday was hearing a PIL by Pune BJP leaders Ujwal Keskar and Dilip Tukaram Vedepatil, challenging the SEC’s decision.

The pleas referred to the amendment to Section 5 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, wherein final notification of delimitation of wards is to be issued by the state government in consultation with the SEC.

Senior advocate S M Gorwadkar and advocate Ritvik Joshi, appearing for the petitioners, argued that before amendment to section 5 of the said law, objections to draft delimitation of wards were invited from the public.

“However, such objections were not invited post amendment of the said provision, therefore the present notification of delimitation is contrary to the statutory provisions and not in tune with the MMC Act,” the lawyers argued

Additional Government Pleader A I Patel, representing the respondent state, raised objection over the locus (standing) of the petitioner and sought time to file an affidavit in reply, which the court allowed and posted further hearing on the pleas to May 25.

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