Friday, October 7, 2022

Supreme Court refuses to postpone Goa panchayat elections due to monsoon

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The Supreme Court quashed a petition on Wednesday, which challenged the Bombay High Court’s order that had dismissed the decision of Goa government to postpone panchayat elections in the state due to the monsoon.

A Vacation Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Krishna Murari rejected the petition filed by the state of Goa, observing that monsoon was not a valid reason to stall the process of elections.

However, the Apex Court gave the State Election Commission permission to move the High Court, in case of any difficulty.

Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing the Goa government, said that there could be flash floods and other such natural disasters during monsoon.

The Counsel further said that elections would affect the machinery needed for relief work during the rainy season. The bench rejected the plea, after the state said the poll process would be over by September.

Last month, the Bombay High Court had, come down heavily on the Goa government for postponing the panchayat elections, noting that such defiance to comply with Constitutional mandate to hold polls have become a regular feature.

The Bench comprising Justice M.S. Sonak and Justice R.N. Laddha had noted that it was the fourth instance in the last two decades when the Government of Goa and the State Election Commission (SEC) did not comply with the constitutional mandate under Article 243E to hold Panchayat elections.

The High Court had observed on June 28 that it was an attempt to bring about a situation of fait accompli, emboldened by the fact that not even the most powerful court could turn the clock back or recoup the lost time.

The Goa government was directed by the High Court to hold elections within 45 days and issue a notification under the Election Procedure Rules within three days, fixing a date for holding elections to the panchayats, whose terms had expired or were due to expire shortly.

The State of Goa challenged this decision in the Apex Court, stating that the High Court’s decision was erroneous and would mean holding elections amid rough weather, including heavy rains and cyclones.

Advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, appearing for Goa government, noted that Maharashtra and Gujarat were earlier given concessions on similar grounds for local body polls.

The petition further said that the need to comply with the triple-test towards OBC reservations also consumed time in issuing the poll notification.

Since the tenue of 186 village panchayats had ended on June 18, 2022, the Goa State Election Commission (SEC) had proposed to hold elections from May to June. However, they were held back because the state government had not issued notification under the Goa Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat (Election Procedure) Rules, appointing a date for holding elections.

While SEC told the state to conduct the elections and assured the Court of completing the entire process within 30 days of the state notification, the Goa government said that elections in monsoon were not conducive and decided to hold them in September, 2022.

Goa government was also represented by Advocate-General Devidas Pangam and Advocate Abhay Anil Anturkar.

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