Dump the bill

Dump the bill

The unseemly attempts by the Karnataka government to avoid holding elections to the urban local bodies (ULBs) stand defeated. The government went to the extent of getting the state legislature to amend the relevant law in great haste to forestall the state election commission (SEC) from going ahead with holding the elections as directed by the Supreme Court. Fortunately, Governor H R Bhardwaj held back his assent to the amendment adopted by the legislature. There were apprehensions that the governor might give his assent since no political party was apparently ready to fight ULB elections just ahead of the Assembly polls expected in May. The amendment, if it had become law, would have required the SEC to secure the government’s approval to announce elections. With the Supreme Court also asking the state government on Wednesday to cooperate with the SEC, the bid to avert the elections was foiled. The SEC announced a poll schedule on Thursday.  

For quite some time, the government had tried to get the elections deferred on the ground that the ward reservation list had not been updated to reflect the composition of the population as seen in the 2011 census.  The court set a deadline for updating the list and directed the SEC to go ahead with the election process if the government did not prepare the new list. Instead of abiding by the court’s directive, the government got a bill passed in the legislature requiring the SEC to seek the government’s concurrence before announcing election dates. The freedom of the election authority to conduct free and fair polls in time is a basic requirement of parliamentary democracy. It is within the powers of the commissions, at the Centre and in states, to draw up the schedule, initiate the process and conduct the elections, without reference to the wishes of political authorities. The opposition of the government and all parties to the conduct of polls was dubious and politically motivated. But the convenience of parties should not be a criterion for the conduct of elections.

The Constitution has mandated that elections to local bodies should be held on time as they are the basic administrative units for empowerment of people. There have been past judicial decisions which make it clear that the conduct of timely elections is more important than the nature of the voters’ list and its composition. Now that the elections are announced, the amendment has become redundant and it should be treated as such.

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