HC sets 1-month deadline for govt to issue final notification on zilla, taluk panchayat elections

The High Court of Karnataka has set a final deadline of one month to complete the delimitation and reservation process for the elections to the zilla panchayats and taluk panchayats in the state.

On June 28, 2023, the HC had granted the new state government (that had come to power after assembly polls in May this year) 10 weeks to redo the delimitation exercise.

On Thursday, Advocate General Shashi Kiran Shetty, representing the state government, submitted that the delimitation and reservation process for the panchayat elections is underway.

The HC said it was providing the state government with a final one-month window to issue the final notification on the election.

The bench emphasised the importance of conducting the elections promptly, given the constitutional obligation. The Supreme Court had previously cautioned the state government twice on the matter of not conducting elections to local bodies with a statutory mandate.

A public interest litigation filed by the State Election Commission (SEC) was heard by a division bench led by Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit. The bench has scheduled the next hearing for December 19.

The SEC had prepared for the ZP-TP polls in Karnataka in April and May of 2021. It had completed the delimitation exercise on constituencies and the final list of voters was also published. The reservation draft was also announced by the SEC.

However, before the SEC could announce the election schedule, the then State Government amended the Karnataka Panchayat Raj and Gram Swaraj Act, withdrawing the powers of the Commission to redraw the constituencies and prepare the reservation list. A new delimitation panel was created by the State to conduct the exercise.

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The SEC has challenged the amendment to the Act before the HC.

The state government has repeatedly sought time to complete the exercise and the election has been pending ever since. The HC had in December 2022 even imposed a cost of Rs five lakh on the government for its delaying tactics.

The court’s decision to grant a one-month grace period to the state government for the completion of the delimitation and reservation process reflects its understanding of the practical challenges involved, the HC said.

The bench conveyed its expectation that the government would make every effort to expedite the process and facilitate the conduct of elections without further delay.

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