Kerala HC refuses to stay order on new local bodies

Trivandarum - The bench headed by chief justice Ashok Bhushan has left no scope for the government to delay the polls due in October.

By T K Devasla

Published: Fri 21 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 22 Aug 2015, 9:08 AM

In a big political setback to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government, a division bench of the Kerala high court on Thursday refused its plea to stay a single bench's order quashing the government notification forming 69 new panchayats (village councils) and four municipalities.
The bench headed by chief justice Ashok Bhushan has left no scope for the government to delay the polls due in October. The bench has directed the State Election Commission to complete the election by November 1. It has asked the state government to provide all assistance.
The commission had submitted before the division bench that elections could be delayed by as much as six months if they were to be conducted as per the new delimitation.
The government had, on the other hand, claimed that it could be done in less than three months. The commission wanted the elections to be held on the basis of the delimitation carried out in 2010. The division bench did not express any opinion on the plea. On the other hand, it has asked the commission to take into consideration the government's earlier notification forming 24 new municipalities.
This could pose a big problem to the commission as the new municipalities were carved from several adjoining panchayats. It may not be possible to conduct the polls to these municipalities without completing the delimitation process. Since the court has upheld the formation of these municipalities, it cannot be reconverted into panchayats.
There was no immediate explanation from the government as to how the knotty issue will be resolved. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that the government will come out with its stand after studying the judgment.
P K Kunhalikutty, Minister for Industries and leader of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which had taken a strong stand on the delimitation, said that the government may have to sit with the Election Commission and resolve the issue.
He said that a high level meeting convened by Chief Minister on August 24 will discuss the issue. Kunhalikutty said that the government had no plan to postpone the election in the light of the legal setbacks.
State Election Commissioner K Sasidharan Nair said that the commission was hopeful of conducting the elections as per the court directive and provisions of the Constitution. He, however, did not say how the commission will overcome the technical issues.
The opposition has viewed the high court order as a blow to the government's attempt to torpedo the elections. Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan held the chief minister solely responsible for the situation. He said Chandy had created the crisis by bowing down to the pressures from the ruling front constituents.
Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Kanam Rajendran said that the issues were the result of the attempt by the government to treat the election commission as a government department. He has urged the government to respect the constitutional status of the institution and help it to conduct the elections in time.
The elections are considered significant since it will set the tone for the Assembly polls to be held early next year. A statewide survey conducted by Cvoter for a leading Malayalam television channel showed chances for the UDF to retain power.

More news from WORLD