The Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it will not proceed with the delimitation process for BMC elections till the court hears a plea filed by former corporators on December 20.
Justice S V Gangapurwala and Justice Arif Saleh Doctor were hearing the plea filed by former corporators challenging the government’s decision to reverse the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s decision to go ahead with delimitation of BMC wards.
Initiated in 2021, the delimitation exercise during the MVA government had increased the number of electoral wards from 227 to 236. However, an ordinance issued by the Eknath Shinde government on August 8 had reinstated these wards to 227. On September 8, the ordinance was replaced by the Maharashtra Amendment Act, 2022.
Senior advocate Vikram Nankani, appearing for the government, told HC that the state will not act further on its November 22 circular with respect to the BMC, seeking to redraw wards across civic bodies as per Census figures.
Nankani said multiple petitions are pending before the Supreme Court, challenging the government decision and therefore, the HC cannot decide the same at present.
However, senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, representing the petitioner, said the current plea was filed only after the SC directed the petitioner to raise the matter before HC. Chinoy sought that the process be stayed till the hearing of the plea.
The State Election Commission (SEC), in an affidavit filed by Deputy Commissioner Avinash Sanas, said that it had completed the delimitation and reservation process as per an ordinance issued on November 30, 2021 (by MVA), increasing the number of wards from 227 to 236.
It added that the delimitation programme was declared in January, this year. While draft delimitation was published in the official gazette on February 1, 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.
The SEC said that on March 11, amendments into Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act introduced by the Maharashtra government came into force, allowing the state to take over the powers of delimitation and ward formation for local body elections, prompting the poll body to pause the delimitation process.
It further said that while the challenge to the amended laws was pending in the SC, the top court directed the SEC to proceed with the overdue elections of 2,486 local bodies on the basis of previous delimitation exercise, which included BMC.
Thereafter, the SEC began the delimitation process, released the voter list and notification for reservation of wards. The commission said that as the August 8 ordinance was impugned, it annulled all the processes completed by the SEC and earlier work had to be stopped again.
The government, through Deputy Secretary (Urban Development) Priyanka Chhapwale told HC that the plea has been filed with “ulterior motives”.
The HC will hear the plea next on December 20.