In a major ruling that could have a wider ramification for the conduct of local body polls in future, the Madras High Court on Tuesday set aside the notification for civic polls issued by the State Election Commission.
As a consequence, the polls scheduled for October 17 and 19 stand cancelled. “The State Election Commission is directed to issue fresh notifications, conduct elections and complete the election process, as per law, at the earliest, not later than December 31,” Justice N. Kirubakaran said in his order.
Explaining the rationale, Justice Kirubakaran said the election notification was void for five reasons: it was not in compliance with Rule 24 of the T.N. Panchayat (Elections) Rules, 1995; it was issued at midnight; it provided no level-playing field as the ruling party had prior information [about the notification] as proved by the announcement of its candidates on the date of notification; it did not give sufficient time to other parties to get ready for the elections; and it rushed through the procedures, causing prejudice to other contestants. He passed the order while hearing the plea moved by the DMK, which had sought adequate reservation for the Scheduled Tribes as mandated by the Constitution.
Observing that the State Election Commission had shown unwarranted hurry in issuing the notification, the judge said the notification in the early hours — 12.15 a.m. on September 26, 2016 — was not humanly possible to do when the government offices remained closed.
“People cannot be expected to take note of the notice. The purpose of the procedure is to inform the public and the stakeholders about the date of the poll and poll schedule and it can’t be done at midnight,” the judge said.