Hearing PPCC's petition challenging de-limitation of wards for forthcoming Punjab panchayat polls, HC refrains Punjab govt from issuing notification of panchayat polls' schedule till May 29.
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) moved the Punjab and Haryana high court on April 16, challenging the process of delimitation of wards (wardbandi) in Punjab for the upcoming panchayat elections, allegedly done by the SAD-BJP government in an “illegal and secret manner to suit its political interests”.
The public interest litigation, filed through PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa, has sought directions to the state government to undertake the process of wardbandi afresh in all panchayats strictly in accordance with the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 (amended in 2012). The PPCC has also levelled allegations against Surjit Singh Rakhra, rural development and panchayats minister, for interfering in the process of wardbandi through halqa incharges and MLAs for political gains.
The petitioner has made a prayer to quash all proceedings regarding preparation/revision of voter lists on the basis of “illegally” held wardbandi and seeking stay on the panchayat elections. It has been alleged that for its vested interests, the state government tried to manipulate the panchayat polls through “illegal” wardbandi.
They also sought quashing of provisions of section 10 and 10-A of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act (amended in 2012) and Punjab State Election Commission Act, 1994, as they exclude the control of the state election commission in formulation of wardbandi in panchayats while filing the petition.
It was submitted that even the voters/gram sabha members, who are main stakeholders in the elections, were kept in the dark about the whole process since the proposed lists of wards were not displayed or published in the official gazette, as per the requirement of law.
They had alleged that the wardbandi lists do not reveal anything regarding composition of wards, i.e. house numbers, site plans, adjoining groups of houses, contiguity pattern, etc. which could enable a voter/citizen to file objections or suggestions.
They had also alleged that wardbandi lists were not displayed in offices of deputy commissioners, district development officers, and block development and panchayat officers of panchayats concerned and wherever it was done, lists were incomplete.
Apart from the chief secretary and 22 deputy commissioners, the petitioner had also made Rakhra and the state election commission as parties in the case.
The petitioner has mentioned that a similar case was filed in the HC regarding villages in Chola Sahib block (Tarn Taran district) and the court had on April 12 stayed holding of the elections.