The Supreme Court directed the Bengal government to inform within 10 days when voting is possible in various municipalities of the state, including Kolkata. The apex court also ruled that an early administrator would have to be appointed at the head of the municipality if early voting was not possible due to the pandemic situation.
The Supreme Court directed the Bengal government to inform within 10 days when voting is possible in various municipalities of the state, including Kolkata.
The apex court also ruled that an early administrator would have to be appointed at the head of the municipality if early voting was not possible due to the pandemic situation.
In some municipalities in the state, the term of the elected board has expired but there was no vote due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, the day-to-day work of the municipality is being carried out by appointing those who were in power in the previous board as administrators.
For example, in the case of Kolkata, the outgoing mayor Firhad Hakim has been made the head of the 'Board of Administration'. The members of the outgoing 'Mayor-in-Council' are in the administration.
Opposition parties in the state have objected to the move. They allege that in this way, the ruling party is actually seizing power by avoiding the democratic system. The government, however, claims that the administrator has been appointed in accordance with the law and it has been recognized in the court.
Kolkata resident Sharad Kumar Singh had approached the court against the appointment of the administrator. In August, the High Court dismissed his case. However, the High Court said that a referendum should be held as soon as possible to bring the situation is brought under control.
Opponents have questioned why neutral administrators have not been appointed to replace politicians in municipalities. Besides, Sharad Kumar went to the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict. He claimed that the constitutional obligation to hold elections at the end of the term of the municipality could not be revoked by applying the full law. Administrators cannot be appointed by issuing administrative instructions. It has to be passed in the assembly or through the court.
The State Election Commission is responsible for conducting the referendum. Earlier, in a Supreme Court hearing, the commission had said that a decision on when the pre-poll will be held shall be taken after Diwali.
The National Election Commission told the Supreme Court that the voter list in the state would be finalized by January. Justice Sanjay Kishen Kul wants to know the state government's statement on when it will be possible to hold a vote. The next hearing of the case is on December 16. As such, the state has only 10 days.
Kolkata Municipality lawyer Kalyan Bandyopadhyay said the judges had commented that if it was not possible to vote for the COVID-19 situation, an independent neutral administrator should be appointed. The petitioner's lawyer Bikash Singh said the apex court had made it clear that an independent administrator would have to be appointed if a decision was not taken within ten days.
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Last Updated Dec 8, 2020, 10:01 AM IST