SC upholds Bombay HC order on Goa municipal polls

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a recent order of the Bombay High Court which had postponed elections to five municipal councils in Goa over irregularities in reservation of constituencies for Scheduled Tribes and women.

Speaking to reporters following the apex court on Friday, advocate Carlos Ferreira, who heads the state Congress legal cell, said that the SC had also faulted the Goa government for appointing a serving state Law Secretary as a State Election Commissioner (SEC) and had directed other states to ensure that the SEC, should not hold dual responsibilities. 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.

“The SC using this judgement has passed unique directions under Article 142 of the Constitution, directing that the Law Secretary who is holding charge as SEC (in Goa) be removed forthwith and directed that if SECs are holding dual charge in other states, should be removed (from their posts) forthwith,” Ferreira said.

“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,” the Congress official also 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 five municipal councils, namely Margao, Mapusa, Mormugao, Sanguem and Quepem, by 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 subsequently.

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.

President of the Goa Forward party and former deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, while reacting to the order said: “The government who has not given the Bahujan Samaj (a 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”.