Refusing to stay the upcoming panchayat elections in the state,the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday gave the Punjab government,22 deputy commissioners and Minister for Rural Development Surjit Singh Rakhra a week to reply to a PIL filed by the state Congress,which has accused the state of clandestinely carving out wards for the elections.
A vacation bench comprising Justices G S Sandhawalia and Amol Rattan Singh also issued notices to the Punjab State Election Commission. The bench,however,refused to stay the panchayat elections,as demanded by the Congress.
Also,a request to keep the elections in abeyance till next date of hearing failed to cut ice with the bench. The court will hear the case next on April 26.
Only after the bench questioned senior lawyer Dr Anmol Rattan Sidhu,appearing for Congress,on various legal and factual issues that notices were issued on the PIL. The arguments lasted for more than an hour.
Pointing out several violations and illegalities,Sidhu contended that the delimitation of wards had been done by the Punjab government in a clandestine manner and as per its convenience.
Alleging that no site plan had been considered at the time of delimitation,the senior lawyer argued that the notification of delimitation of wards issued by the Punjab government was a farce.
He also alleged that the deputy commissioners,in order to appease their political bosses,had toed the line. Showing little conviction in the averment,the Bench observed,it is very difficult to presume that every deputy commissioner of the state has toed the party line.
To examine the application of mind by the DCs while rejecting the objections raised by various villagers,the bench perused the findings given by the DCs. The Court also remarked that normally Courts should not interfere once the election process has begun.
Hitting out at the minister for rural development,Congress counsel alleged that Rakhras brain was behind the exercise.
The Congress has alleged that the minister was interfering in the process of wardbandi at every level through MLAs at the local level.
The petitioner has demanded that necessary provisions of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act,1994 should be declared illegal in so far as they exclude the role/superintendence,direction and control of the State Election Commission in the formulation of wardbandi in gram sabhas.
The court declined to stay the ongoing process of delimitation of Panchayat wards being carried out in the state,as demanded by the Congress.
The Congress alleged that the Punjab government for its benefit,kept correct documents regarding delimiting wards in its possession. One such document showing the correct marking and carving of wards was produced by the Congress counsel in court on Wednesday.