March 5, 2021 2:40:08 am
THREE DAYS after the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court asked the Goa government to “rectify gross illegalities” in the reservation of wards for the upcoming local body elections in the state, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the order and another order issued by the State Election Commission that kept polls in five municipal bodies at abeyance.
The apex court will hear the matter next on March 9.
Following the order from the bench of Justices R F Nariman and Hrishikesh Roy, the Goa State Election Commission resumed the election process in the five municipal councils that were among the 11 going to polls on March 20.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said in a tweet, “Hon. Supreme Court has stayed the High Court’s order cancelling elections to five Municipalties & consequent order of State Election Commission keeping the election process in abeyance. Matter to be come up for final hearing on Tuesday. Now, the democratic process has been restored!”
The Supreme Court’s order paves the way for candidates to file their nomination papers to contest the local body polls.
The High Court order on March 1 came on a clutch of petitions challenging the February 4 order of the director of municipal administration in which, the petitioners alleged, wards were arbitrarily reserved and constitutional provisions mandating 33 per cent seats for women and rotation of seats reserved for SC/ST candidates were not followed.
Last week, the State Election Commission announced elections in 11 municipal councils in Goa and the Corporation of the City of Panaji. With Assembly elections in 2022, political parties were preparing for the local body polls as a prelude.
The High Court struck down the February 4 order of reservation of wards for the council polls in Sanguem, Mormugao, Margao and Quepem in South Goa and Mapusa in North Goa and ordered that the exercise of reservation in these councils be carried out afresh. It asked the authorities to issue a notification in 10 days to ensure that the reservation for women is not less than one-third the seats in the council. It also came down heavily on the State Election Commission for announcing elections to the municipal council on Feb 22, despite the irregularities in the reservation of the wards.
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