The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Bombay High Court’s recent order postponing elections to five municipal councils in Goa over irregularities in reservation of constituencies for Scheduled Tribes and women.
Addressing reporters following the apex court order, advocate Carlos Ferreira, who heads the state Congress legal cell, said that the apex court had also faulted the Goa government for appointing the state’s serving Law Secretary as a State Election Commissioner (SEC) and had directed other states to ensure that the SEC should not hold dual responsibilities.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has assured the Goa government would follow the directions laid down by the SC related to the appointment of the State Election Commissioner, as well as rectify the errors in the process of reservation of wards for the polls.
The court has also said that elections to the five municipal councils, which were originally scheduled to be held on March 20, should now be completed by April 30.
Ferreira said that the SC, in this judgement, has passed unique directions under the Constitution’s Article 142, that the Law Secretary who is holding charge as SEC in Goa be removed forthwith if SECs are holding dual charge in other states, they should also be removed from the post forthwith.
“This independent post (SEC) is a very high Constitutional post, as underlined by the SC in this judgement. The SC has come down very heavily on the Law Secretary on his conduct in the manner of functioning and manner of maintaining the decorum as SEC,” he said.
On March 2, the Bombay High Court bench, which was hearing a petition related to irregularities in reservation of municipal wards for women and Scheduled Caste categories, had postponed elections to the five municipal councils, namely Margao, Mapusa, Mormugao, Sanguem and Quepem, to April 15.
In all, 11 municipal councils and one municipal corporation were scheduled to go to polls on March 20.
The Goa government had challenged the HC order in the apex court, through a special leave petition, even as two opposition parties, the Congress and Goa Forward, had filed caveats in the Supreme Court.
Asked to comment on the order, Sawant said: “We accept the court order and whatever mistakes were committed at the level of the Directorate of Municipal Administration will be rectified. Whatever instructions have been given by court, we will follow.”
On the removal of the present SEC, he said: “In most states, the SEC is a serving IAS officer or a state cadre officer. There were no strict instructions until now. There will be a full fledged officer henceforth.”
Opposition parties in Goa have welcomed the SC order.
“After this SC order, the CM should not be sitting in the chair for a single minute because of all the harakiri and flouting of election processes, his government has violated ahead of the municipal polls,” state Congress president Girish Chodankar said.
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA Sudin Dhavalikar also applauded the SC order.
“The SC has given the right decision. The Court has said that if you flaunt processes, we will show you your place. At least, the government should try and rectify its position now,” Dhavalikar said.
Goa Forward party President and former deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai said: “The government who has not given the Bahujan Samaj (the non-Brahmin caste grouping in Goa), the STs, the SCs and women their worth has been shown its place by means of the SC order”.
State Bharatiya Janata Party president Sadanand Shet Tanavade, however, said that the party respects the SC order, but added that it “would have no impact on the party’s performance in the municipal polls”.
“We will emerge victorious in these elections,” he claimed.