Local body polls: Two TN officials issued contempt notice

Chennai: The Madras High Court issued contempt notices to two senior officials of the Tamilnadu government for not conducting local body polls as per its orders.

The notices, returnable by 11 September, were issued to Principal Secretary to Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department Hans Raj Verma and Principal Secretary to Municipal Administration and Water Supply Harmandar Singh.

A division bench, comprising Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice M Sundar, ordered issue of notices while passing interim orders on a contempt petition by DMK leader R S Bharathi.

He had sought initiation of contempt proceedings against officials for not complying with the 4 September 2017 order of the court that the local body polls be completed by 17 November last year.

The local body polls were originally slated to be held in October 2016, but they were cancelled by a single judge bench of the high court on a petition by the DMK, seeking among others appropriate reservation as per the latest census and rotation of seats according to the norms.

During the hearing of the contempt plea on Monday, the State Election Commission (SEC) had informed the court that its hands are tied against conducting the local body elections immediately in view of amendments to various acts related to the local bodies.

The amendment had deleted a provision which allowed elections without completing the delimitation process based on the latest census.

Hence, the elections cannot be held without completing the delimitation process, the SEC had said. In its order yesterday, the bench said an ordinance to amend the acts was issued a day before the high court gave the 4 September order on petitions seeking conduct of the polls.

“It appears that the proposal for promulgation of the ordinance has been moved at the instance of the (two) officials. Prima facie contempt has been made out. Statutory notice is issued to the officials for willful disobedience (of the court order) in passing the ordinance,” it said.

The petitioner contended that the action of the officials showed sheer abuse of power and to overreach the court proceedings.

The court had earlier directed the SEC to submit the poll schedule on 6 August.