Govt’s SLP says amendment to KMC Act was stalled by Covid-19 pandemic, feels poll date can be extended under Article 243-U
The BJP government in Karnataka feels it has a strong point in its favour after filing a petition in the Supreme Court against the Karnataka High Court order, which directed the government to notify the final ward reservations within a month or the order and instructed the State Election Commission to hold BBMP elections within six weeks thereafter.
The apex court has set the date of the hearing for the state government’s special leave petition for December 18. The SLP challenges the HC order in a case filed by former Congress corporators M Shivaraju and Abdul Wajid, and others. The Supreme Court has issued notice to hear the SLP No. 15181-15183/2020 in Court No. VC 1 as Item No. 19.
The Divisional Bench of the High Court had on December 4 ordered elections to 198 wards, despite the government having increased the number of wards to 243 through the amended Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976.
‘Confident of SC stay’
“We are confident of getting a stay in the Supreme Court as we had moved the amendment to increase BBMP wards to 243 much before the tenure of BBMP expired on September 10,” said a BJP leader who is closely monitoring the developments.
The state government in its 184-page petition has challenged the impugned common final judgement and order of the division bench which directed the state to proceed with elections for the existing 198 wards of BBMP, despite the fact that KMC Act of 1976 stands amended and the number of wards in the city of Bengaluru has been increased to 243 by way of notification issued under the amended Act. The High Court, despite upholding the validity of the amended provisions, has erroneously read down the provisions to mean that the amended provision would not apply to elections of those corporations where elections became due prior to the coming into force of the amended provisions, the SLP says.
In other words, “the High Court has directed the state to conduct elections in a manner which is contrary to a validly and unanimously enacted piece of legislation by state legislature, which was brought into force with an avowed objective of improving urban governance in one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in India,” the petition copy reads.
“It is stated that the increase in the number of wards was necessitated by the fact that the population and demographics of the city have undergone a vast change since 2009 when the number of wards was increased to 198, thereby necessitating an increase in the number of wards and their redrawing into smaller and more administrable sizes. The directions to hold the elections for 198 wards is directly contrary to and in the teeth of the amended provisions by which the minimum number of wards has been increased to 225. it is humbly submitted that such a direction could not have been passed, especially when the constitutional validity of the statue was upheld,” the petition adds.
Further, the Karnataka government in its petition states that there is absolutely no conflict between the provisions of Article 243(U) of the Constitution and the amendment to the KMC Act.
“The government was in the process of enacting a new Act in the present case beginning in March 2020. However, the same could not be passed as the Covid-19 pandemic intervened after the bill was introduced. The amendment Act in question came to be passed in October 2020 after the assembly was convened. It is submitted that judicial notice can be taken of the period lost due to the pandemic and the period for holding the elections can be extended under Article 243-U,” the SLP reads.