March 13, 2021 3:40:51 am
The Supreme Court Friday ruled that a government official cannot be appointed State Election Commissioner.
Independence of election commissions cannot be compromised in a democracy, and entrusting additional charge of state election commissioner to a government official is a “mockery of the Constitution”, a bench headed by Justice R F Nariman said while deciding an appeal filed by the Goa government against the high court ruling on local body elections in the state.
The Supreme Court disapproved the decision of the Goa government to give its Law Secretary the additional charge of State Election Commissioner for conducting municipal council polls.
The bench, exercising powers under Article 142 — which empower the court to exercise its power to do complete justice –, directed all states and Union Territories to henceforth ensure that they have independent election commissioners as mandated by Article 243(2) of the Constitution.
The court also asked the Goa poll body to issue notification for the panchayat polls within 10 days and complete the poll process by April 30.
The Goa bench of Bombay High Court had struck down the reservation of wards on the ground that the reservation of wards for women, SC and ST was not carried out in accordance with provisions of the Goa Municipalities Act.
Though the state contended that the high court could not have interfered with the election process, the Supreme Court said what was challenged was a step prior to the elections and not the elections itself.
Responding to the ruling, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said, “We accept the decision of the Supreme Court. Whatever mistakes have been made at the level of the Directorate of the Municipal Administration will be rectified.”
Advocate General of Goa Devidas Pangam said that the polls scheduled in the five municipalities on March 21 will no longer take place. “We accept the decision of the Supreme Court with humility and respect. A fresh notification will be issued and a new election schedule will be announced by the State Election Commission,” said Pangam. He also said that the government will immediately appoint a full-time State Election Commissioner.
The Congress and the Goa Forward Party were among the petitioners in the clutch of petitions first filed in the high court and then challenged by the Goa government in the apex court.
State Congress president Girish Chodankar said, “The BJP stands exposed of its unconstitutional, undemocratic & dictatorial functioning in Goa.” Chodankar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi who “speaks about protecting morals, governance and democracy” should immediately ask Sawant to step down. He said Sawant, Urban Development minister Nilesh Naik and government officials concerned should be punished.
Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai said the Chief Minister had “defied Indian Constitution and strangled democracy”. “It’s
no more about resigning as Goa CM, he has no moral right to remain in public life,” Sardesai said.
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