Double whammy for government as Supreme Court also rejects Goa’s latest move to postpone Panchayat polls

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Jul 07, 2022 | 07:47 IST

Double whammy for government as Supreme Court also rejects Goa’s latest move to postpone Panchayat polls

Votes on August 10; High Court also dismisses Goa’s motion challenging non-inclusion of OBCs in reservation list

Team Herald

PANJIM: The state government faced a double whammy on Wednesday as the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s order, ordering the state government and the State Election Commission (SEC) to complete the electoral process for 186 Village Panchayats by August 12, 2022.

In a separate application filed by an individual in the High Court, Bench of Justice Division MS Sonak and Justice RN Laddha dismissed a plea challenging the non-inclusion of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for the ensuing elections. With this setback from the Goa government, the elections will be held on 10th August 2022 and will count as 12th August 2022 as per the notification issued on 30th June as instructed by the High Court.

The crucial hearing before the SC was filed by the government requesting the postponement of the Panchayat polls until September 12, 2022, in view of the monsoon season, the next monsoon session of the Legislative Assembly followed by the festival Ganesh Chaturthi.

The vacation bench consisting of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari declined to interfere with the High Court’s order issued on June 28, 2022, while observing that its order complied with Article 243E of the Constitution of the India, which deals with the Panchayat and this Apex Court decision in Suresh Mahajan v. State of Madhya Pradesh did not require any interference.

However, the SEC is authorized to approach the High Court as the requirement arises for necessary guidance. “These petitions are dismissed,” he added.

During the hearing, the lead attorney, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing on behalf of the state, requested an extension of the polls by a month and a half, as holding elections at the height of the monsoon could not be conducive.

“We are asking for a month and a half. We will finish at the end of September. Everything will be over. This time what’s happened is that for the last six months, this whole exercise by the SEC on delineation and the OBC database, pursuant to the Supreme Court ruling in the three-step test, continued. The SEC continued to request documents, which were given.

The SEC changed the dates three times. We did not oppose it. Our problem arose that the last date set by the SEC was June 18, which was the last date on which Panchayat’s term ended. It was right in the middle of the monsoon. That’s when we moved,” Kaul’s submission said.

He further argued that since the notification of the election had already been issued, the model code of conduct had come into effect. In view of the same, the budget session held in July would be prohibited from even disbursing financial aid for flood relief. Also, according to reports from the meteorology department, there are flash floods and landslides in the state. Kaul further argued that all staff to conduct the elections are provided by the state government but given the flood situation in Goa, it might be difficult to conduct the elections in 45 days, as ordered by the High Court.

The SC, however, did not accept the submissions and rejected the request for special leave filed on Monday.

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