Periodic, free and fair elections, a basic structure of the Constitution

    09-Mar-2021
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Aaron Keishing
Contd from previous issue
Examining the underlying object of inserting Part IX-A by the Constitution (Seventy-fourth) Amendment Act, 1992 and highlighting effective and meaningful role to be played by local bodies in political governance of the country, K.G. Balakrishnan, J. (as His Lordship then was) stated:
"The object of introducing these provisions was that in many States the local bodies were not working properly and the timely elections were not being held and the nominated bodies were continuing for long periods. Elections had been irregular and many times unnecessarily delayed or postponed and the elected bodies had been superseded or suspended without adequate justification at the whims and fancies of the State authorities. These views were expressed by the then Minister of State for Urban Development while introducing the Constitution Amendment Bill before the Parliament and thus the new provisions were added in the Constitution with a view to restore the rightful place in political governance for local bodies. It was considered necessary to provide a Constitutional status to such bodies and to ensure regular and fair conduct of elections. In the statement of objects and reasons in the Constitution Amendment Bill relating to urban local bodies.”
Further the Apex Court observed that in many States, local bodies have become weak and ineffective on account of variety of reasons, including the failure to hold regular elections, prolonged supersessions and inadequate devolution of powers and functions. As a result, urban local bodies are not able to perform effectively as vibrant democratic units of self-Government. Having regard to these inadequacies, it is considered necessary that provisions relating to urban local bodies are incorporated in the Constitution, particularly for - (i) putting on a firmer footing the relationship between the State Govt. and the Urban Local Bodies with respect to: (a) the functions and taxation powers, and (b)  (i) arrangements for revenue sharing. (ii) ensuring regular conduct of elections. (iii) ensuring timely elections in the case of supersession; and (iv) providing adequate representation for the weaker sections like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women. Accordingly, it has been proposed to add a new Part relating to the Urban Local Bodies in the Constitution to provide for *** ***(f) fixed tenure of 5 years for the Municipality and re-election within a period of six months of its dissolution.
Under Section 13(1), the duration of the Councils is fixed for a term of five years and every Council shall continue for five years from the date notification for election or nomination under section 12. That election to constitute a Council shall be completed - (a) before the expiry of its duration specified in or before the expiration of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution. Therefore, the constitutional mandate is that election to a Council shall be completed before the expiry of the five years' period and in case of dissolution and elections have to be conducted in such a manner.
The term of office of Councils has expired in May, 2020 and election has to be held. However, the State Government has taken a decision to keep the ADCs in supersession mode without any stiputlated time period which is arbitrary, bias, discriminatory and violate the provisions of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. An election to constitute a Council shall be completed before the expiration of its duration specified in clause (1) of Section 13 of the Act, 1971. There is a constitutional obligation and mandate to hold election before the term of the Council comes to an end and in our case, it is 01.06.2020.
No reason can be given by the State Government for escaping the mandate of the Constitution. The State Government in the matter has been slack in not taking steps but the State Government is stating difficulties in holding election in time, which cannot be the case having regard to the Constitutional mandate.

(To be contd)