Karnataka govt has taken away our powers: Election Commission tells High Court

  • With corruption allegations levelled against several high-profile political leaders in Karnataka, it comes as no surprise that the state's election commission (SEC) is also not spared. The Karnataka SEC told High Court judges that it is unable to announce the election schedule for the impending local body polls as the State government has taken its powers away.
The Election Commission was forced to schedule the long overdue local body poll dates in Karnataka after the Supreme Court gave all states and UTs a two-week deadline last Tuesday. (File Photo)
The Election Commission was forced to schedule the long overdue local body poll dates in Karnataka after the Supreme Court gave all states and UTs a two-week deadline last Tuesday. (File Photo)
Published on May 17, 2022 04:44 PM IST
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The Karnataka State Election Commission on Tuesday told the High Court of Karnataka that the State government had taken away its powers making it unable to hold elections to Zilla Panchayat and Taluk Panchayats as mandated by the Supreme Court. 

A vacation division bench of the High Court comprising Justice SG Pandit and Justice MG Uma heard the Election Commission's petition today. Following last week's Supreme Court direction to hold the ZP-TP and other local body elections within two weeks' time, the Commission filed a memo before the High Court to hear the pending petition citing emergency. 

The High Court asked the Commission's counsel why a memo was filed before it instead of following the Supreme Court's direction. The counsel submitted to the Court that the State Government had withdrawn the Election Commission's power on delimitation of constituencies and drawing up the reservation list. Without these the State EC was unable to announce the election schedule. 

The State had formed a separate panel for the delimitation and reservation even though the EC had completed the exercise on its own. The EC had challenged this before the High Court. The court observed that a detailed examination of the petition was necessary and adjourned the hearing to May 23.

The Supreme Court last Tuesday ordered that all states and union territories must hold pending elections to their local bodies before May 20 while hearing a case pertaining to Madhya Pradesh. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru's local municipal corporation responsible for the administration of the city, has been functioning without an elected council ever since September 2020 after the term of its council expired. Its elections have been delayed for nearly two years now.

A report on The News Minute last week revealed that legislators have been benefitting from the absence of an elected council in the BBMP because it gives them additional powers. Bengaluru Development has had a dedicated minister for nearly a decade, which is a coveted position that is known to be much competed for, and has been the subject of internal friction within the Karnataka BJP. This has led both the chief ministers, the former CM B S Yediyurappa and the incumbent CM Bommai to hold the portfolios themselves.

The report also quoted a BJP leader as saying that around 20 legislators across parties have been collectively paying the advocate’s fee to have the BBMP polls delayed, which comes up to about Rs. 25 lakhs per legislator.

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