Tamilnadu Assembly extends local body special officers term for fifth time

Chennai: Amidst heavy opposition from Opposition parties, the Tamilnadu State Assembly today adopted bills to extend the terms of Special Officers of the State local bodies by another six months. Their terms came to an end 31 December, 2018.

The bills were moved by Municipal Administration Minister S P Velumani and it marks the fifth such extension since 2016, when the Madras High Court cancelled the State Election Commission’s notification for elections to local bodies. Opposition parties, DMK, Congress and the Muslim League opposed the bill vehemently in the Assembly and alleged that government is wantedly postponing the elections.

The last time the extension happened was in June 2018, when the State Assembly adopted two bills to extend the term of special officers for Tamilnadu local bodies (village panchayats, panchayat union councils, district panchayats, town panchayats, municipalities, and municipal corporations) till 31 December 2018.

All four times the Special Officers terms were extended before this, the leaders of Opposition parties urged the government to conduct polls to local bodies at the earliest as the absence of elected representatives prevented the usage of Central funds for local bodies development work. However, Velumani argued that polls could not be held as the delimitation of wards was yet to be completed.

Following this, on 26 December 2018, Municipal Administration Minister S P Velumani and Electricity Minister P Thangamani presented a letter to the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to urge the Centre to release Rs 3,776.20 crore pending funds as grants under the 14th Central Finance Commission to carry out day to day affairs and provide basic amenities to citizens. They had assured the Defence Minister that ward delimitation and other activities would be over in 45 to 60 days.

On 3 January, News Today reported first that now that the delimitation of wards is complete, elections would be held soon and till then, the term of the Special Officers would be extended by another 6 months.  “Right now, allocation of special constituencies for SC/ST and women candidates are going on for local body polls,” sources in the Municipal Administration Department said.

Elections in May
The Tamilnadu State Election Commission (TNSEC) on Monday assured the Madras High Court that it would conduct local body elections in the State by the last week of May.

The submission was made during the hearing of a contempt of court petition filed against a host of officials for disobeying an order passed by the court on 4 September, 2017, to complete the election process before 17 November, 2017.  A Division Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and M Sundar was told that delimitation of wards on the basis of the 2011census was already over.

NT Bureau