Read Judgment: SURESH MAHAJAN Vs. STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH AND ANR. 

Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, May 10, 2022: Observing that the amendment effected to the relevant enactments cannot be reckoned as a legitimate ground for protracting the issue of election programme of the concerned local bodies, the Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission to proceed on notional basis and issue election programme in respect of concerned local body within two weeks.

The Larger Bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice C.T. Ravikumar also noted that the election programme should be issued on the basis of the wards as per the delimitation done in the concerned local bodies when the elections had become due consequent to expiry of 5 years term of the outgoing elected body or before coming into force of the impugned Amendment Acts whichever is later.

The writ petition questioned the validity of Section 10 (1) of the Madhya Pradesh Municipal Act, 1956, Sections 12, 23, 30 of the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj Avam Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam, 1993 and Section 29 of the Madhya Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1961 as being arbitrary and of causing intervention with the powers and independence of the State Election Commission.

Expressing concern that more than 23,263 local bodies are functioning without the elected representatives for over two years and more, the Bench observed   that is bordering on breakdown of rule of law. The Bench also held that if delimitation is not done by the State Government in terms of Amendment Acts of 2022 or the triple test requirement is completed in all respects for providing reservation to OBC category, the State Election Commission shall give effect to this order also in respect of upcoming elections of local bodies which would/had become due by efflux of time.

Facts in brief were that there were about 321 urban local bodies, wherein elections were supposed to take place from 2019- 2020. The number of the local bodies at the rular level were around 23, 073. The reason for non conduction of the elections was that it was not able to complete the triple test formalities as stated in the decision of this Court in the case of Vikas Kishanrao Gawali Vs. State of Maharashtra. Consequently, the reservation for the Other Backward Classes category could not be provisioned by the State Election Commission.This happened despite the peremptory directions given by this Court by successive orders.

The Apex Court affirmed that the ongoing activity of delimitation or formation of ward cannot be a legitimate ground to be set forth by any authority much less the State Election Commission-to not discharge its constitutional obligation in notifying the election programme at the opportune time and to ensure that the elected body is installed before the expiry of 5 years term of the outgoing elected body. If there is need to undertake delimitation, same ought to be commenced well-in-advance to ensure that the elections of the concerned local body are notified in time, added the Bench. 

It was further opined that the State Election Commission should conduct the elections due and should not wait to comply with the triple test concerning the reservation to be provided by the State Government to Other Backward Classes. It was observed that the Commission is expected to make the recommendation with respect to the number of seats to be reserved for Other Backward Classes local body wise.  Thus, the State Election Commission was directed to notify the election programe without any further delay. Directions were also issued to the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission to file compliance reports in due course. 

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