New Delhi: Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (SEC) was pulled up by the Supreme Court over delay in conducting local polls in nine new districts. As the court observed that the local elections have not been conducted for nearly two years in these districts, it gave a deadline till September 15, and stressed: "Covid is a good excuse in all matters". A vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that state poll panel will have to issue notification for the election to the local bodies, holding polls and declaring the results by September 15.
It noted that the top court had passed an order on December 11, 2019 and said that instead of four months given to hold the elections, the poll panel has taken 18 months. The bench also noted that the tenure of the local bodies has expired in 2018-19 and since then there were no new elected representatives. It said that if the order of the court is not complied with, then the poll body will be liable for contempt action. Senior advocate P S Narasimha, appearing for the Election Commission of India (ECI), said the 2019 order could not be implemented as priority was given to assembly elections in the state and later the focus shifted to West Bengal assembly election.
The bench said local body polls are conducted by SECs and not by the ECI. Narasimha said that the state is still recording one of the highest figures of Covid infections and therefore some time be given to hold the elections in these nine districts. The bench said that Covid now-a-days has become an excuse in every other matter and elections can very well be held when the political parties want it.
It will be better if you hold the elections by September 15 or we will initiate contempt action for non-compliance, the bench said. Narasimha said that they do not have any intention of non-compliance of order and the court may not record contempt part in the order. He said the state will first have to hold the delimitation exercise in these nine districts, then issue notification for elections and hold the polls for which it may need some more time.
The bench, however, refused to give more time to state poll panel and asked it to comply with the order. On December 11, 2019, the top court had directed the Tamil Nadu government and the state poll panel to conduct upcoming local bodies' election by relying on 2011 census instead of the 1991 census as alleged by opposition party DMK.
The court order had come on the plea of DMK, which had then sought quashing of the notification, issued by the state poll panel on December 7, 2019, for local body election alleging that it did not provide quota for women and SC and ST candidates as per the 2011 census and was using 1991 census for this purpose.
The top court, on December 6, 2019, had put on hold the elections for the local bodies in nine new districts, carved out of four existing ones, in the state for complying with legal formalities such as delimitation and reservation in four months. The top court had modified its earlier order and asked the delimitation commission to conclude the delimitation exercise within three months instead of four months in nine districts. It had said, however, that TNSEC could proceed with the elections to all panchayats at village, intermediate and district levels in the remaining 31 revenue districts of the southern state.