Move to curb State poll panel's powers

Legislature passes Bill to amend the law to strip SEC of power to fix dates for ULB elections

 The State legislature, on Tuesday, passed a Bill to amend the Municipalities Act, which curtails the powers of the State Election Commission (SEC) to take independent decisions on fixing dates for elections to urban local bodies (ULBs).

Both the Houses of legislature unanimously passed the Karnataka  Municipalities and Certain Other Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 sans debate. Once it becomes legislation, the State Election Commission (SEC) has to take the concurrence of the State government while fixing dates for the polls. At present, SEC only consults the government.

Netas not ready for polls

In case the governor gives his assent immediately, the SEC may be constrained to take a decision independent of the government while fixing dates for the ULB polls which are due.

The SEC is yet to announce the dates for holding the polls.
The government and the SEC are at loggerheads, as the latter is firm on conducting elections while the government is saying that the 2011 census should be taken as the base instead of the 2001 census while working out the reservation.

All political parties hold the same view as none of them are ready to face polls at this juncture.

The Assembly last week had passed a resolution asking the SEC not to hold elections immediately.

When SEC Commissioner C R Chikmath declared he would go ahead with polls for 208 urban local bodies as per Supreme Court direction, the Assembly moved a privilege motion against the commissioner charging that he is not  cognisant of the resolution passed by the Assembly.

The members have been arguing that the reservation for wards should be based on the 2011 census data and not the 2001 data.

The Supreme Court had directed the SEC to hold elections according to the 2007 ward reservation list, if the State government fails to submit the latest reservation pattern by February 4. The government has moved court seeking more time.

 Minister for Municipal Administration Balachandra Jarkiholi, who piloted the Bill, in the Assembly and the Council, explained that the aim is to ensure proper coordination between the government and the SEC on conducting elections to ULBs.

Free and fair elections

Involvement of government machinery is necessary to conduct free and fair elections. Hence, the SEC should consult the government before fixing dates for elections to city corporations, city municipal councils,town municipal councils and town panchayats, he said.

Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri  said in the Assembly that the annual examinations for I and II year PU are slated in March. If the SEC conducts elections to ULBs in the same month, it will be difficult for the government to conduct the examinations. Congress leader D K Shivakumar hailed the proposed amendment as landmark stating it will ensure free and fair elections to ULBs.

With the amendment, the words “in consultation with the government” in Section 24, sub-section (1) of Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 has been substituted with words “with concurrence of the State government.”

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