Supreme Court asks Maharashtra Government to notify local body election in two weeks

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In a setback to the Maharashtra Government, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Khanwilkar, Abhay Oka and Ravikumar has today directed the Maharashtra State Election Commission to notify the elections for local bodies in two weeks. Court has noted that the issue pertaining to reservation for the Other Backward Classes will be decided by it after the elections take place.

The court has further directed the State Election Commission to consider delimitation as it existed prior to its cancelation on March 11 in respect of certain local bodies as notional delimitation for the conduct of overdue elections.

The Maharashtra government in March 2022 passed amendments to Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act and Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats, Industrial Townships Act which allowed the State to take over the powers of formation of electoral wards. The government further canceled the previous process of delimitation and started it afresh, thereby postponing the elections further. 

The Supreme Court was hearing plea's challenging the constitutional validity of the above bills passed by Maharashtra.

The counsel for the petitioners contended that the authority regarding delimitation should be with the State Election Commission and the same has been taken away owing to the coming into force of the Amendment Act(s) with effect from March 11, 2022.

The court at this point noted that main question of law requires a deeper consideration and the process of elections in some local bodies which are overdue for over two years, have not been taken forward despite the earlier directions of the court.

The counsel for the State Election Commission submitted that it had taken steps to conduct the election. However the Amendment Act(s) came into force it was not possible for it to proceed with it.

The court on hearing the parties noted that process of delimitation is a continuous exercise may be continued by the State subject to the outcome of these petitions, but that would be relevant only for future elections after such exercise is completed. The court further noted that the elections of local bodies which had become due on expiry of five years term are required to be conducted before expiry of its term.

The court has further held that until the delimitation is done by the State Government in terms of Amendment Act(s) of 2022, the State Election Commission shall give effect to this order also in respect of upcoming elections in respect of local bodies which would become due by efflux of time.

The court has further directed the SEC to file compliance report in this regard. The court has granted liberty to the SEC to ensure that election programme in respect of local bodies is taken forward without any interruption.

Case title: Rahul Ramesh Wagh Vs State of Maharashtra