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Governor-SEC meeting inconclusive, Kolkata civic polls in jeopardy

 
Kolkata, Nov 23 (IANS) Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar's meeting with State Election Commissioner Sourav Das on the civic polls remained inconclusive on Tuesday. The governor wanted to hold the polls in all the municipalities together against the SEC's decision to go for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the Howrah Municipal Corporation first followed by the other municipalities. Elections to these two corporations now seem to be in jeopardy.

After an hour-long meeting with Das, the governor in a tweet said "Cautioned Shri Saurav Das that SECA@MamataOfficial toeing line of State Government and be merely its executing agency, would be an outrage of the Constitution as also unwholesome for democratic process. It will run down the essence and spirit of constitutional provisions in Part IXA," indicating that the governor will follow the opposition consensus to conduct the polls in all the municipalities together.

Immediately after that, officials of the state election commission confirmed that the commission will not notify the election on Tuesday making it difficult for the commission and the state government to conduct the polls on December 19. "Without the consent of the governor, the commission cannot notify the polls and if we cannot reach a conclusion before Thursday then it would be impossible for us to conduct the election on December 19 and in that case the elections will have to be postponed till next year," a senior commission official said.

The official was referring to Article 243K of the Constitution where it is clearly written: "The Governor of a State shall, when so requested by the State Election Commission, make available to the State Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the State Election Commission."

The governor immediately uploaded a letter written to Das on his Twitter handle referring to "Article 243ZA (Already referred to in Article 243K) of Constitution in categorical terms invests the SEC with the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Municipalities..." "This constitutional mandate for the SEC can in no manner be qualified or diluted by any law by the State as in terms of Article 243ZA (2) such law has to be subject to the provisions of the Constitution," the letter added.

Taking a strong stance against the state, the governor wrote: "As already indicated, there have been numerous inputs to me indicating that the State Election Commission (SEC), abdicating its constitutional mandate and authority, is toeing the line of the State Government, in effect executing the directions of the State Government in the matter of holding upcoming elections to municipalities in the State".

"Thus, the emerging constitutional mandate is that as regards election to the municipalities, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections is exclusively vested in the SEC and it is expected to act independent of the Government," the governor wrote.

"Further, it is a trite legal proposition that provisions of an enactment cannot override, in any manner whatsoever, the stipulations in the Constitution. The supremacy of constitutional prescription is non-negotiable. I am sure you will take note of the issues I had flagged during my interaction as also settled legal positions," the governor wrote.

"If the SEC were to toe the line of the State Government and be merely its executing agency, treating itself as the extension of the State Government, then the same would be an outrage of the Constitution as also unwholesome for democratic process. It will run down the essence and spirit of the constitutional provisions in Part IXA," he said.

--IANS
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