Ahmedabad: In a blow to the Gujarat government, the High Court today quashed an ordinance issued by it to pave way to delay local bodies polls, terming it as "unconstitutional", and directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to "conduct polls before the expiry of their terms."
The court also came down heavily on the Gujarat SEC for using government ordinance to postpone local bodies polls for three months, saying its act was "illegal" and its attitude regarding timely conduct of polls was "negative".
The ordinance amending section 7(a) of Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 8(A) of Municipality Act and 257 of Panchayat Act "is unconstitutional and void and hence quashed and set aside," HC division bench of acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel and Justice N V Anjariya said.
Rattled by the Patel community's agitation for quota, the BJP government had amended three laws by way of ordinance on October 3 which allowed it to advice SEC to delay local bodies poll in case of law and order problem.
On the same night, the SEC had issued a notification postponing local bodies polls for three months, citing law and order situation in the wake of Patel quota agitation.
The notification stated that elections to six municipal corporations, 56 municipalities, 230 taluka panchayats and 31 district panchayats were expected to be held between October and November this year as the term of these bodies is expiring in the period, but now they will take a call on it after three months.
"Action of the State Election Commission (to postpone the local body polls) is illegal and thus it is set aside and quashed," the High Court said today.
"The State Election Commission must begin the programme of elections prior to 45 days of completion of terms of all the local bodies," the HC further said.
The court observed that "the action of the state and SEC is against the spirit of the Constitution".
"Prima facie the State Election Commission was not ready to hold elections," the HC said observing that the reply of the SEC with regard to holding the local body polls was "negative".
On the state's proposed action to appoint an administrator after completion of terms of local bodies in place of elected representatives, the court noted, "The term of 'administrator' is unknown to the Constitution. So there is no room for administrator and administrator has no power. Appointment of administrator is against the spirit of Constitution."
"Power of appointment of administrator making any statute on account of delay of election is unknown to Constitution," the court further observed.
"The Election Commission submitted that power of holding elections is reserved with the SEC and this court has limited power of judicial review. That is why we exercised judicial review," the judges said in their order.
The court also directed the state to assist the SEC to hold timely elections.
On the current law and order situation in the state for holding elections, the HC said, "SEC does not need to test impossibilities, it cannot be said circumstances were beyond the control of human."
The High Court also held that the state cannot compare the act of human as an act of God to postpone the elections. Earlier, an election could be postponed only in case of natural calamities of huge magnitude.