Bombay HC directs Maharashtra govt to reply to plea on reduction of BMC wards; hearing on November 30

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Gauri Godse has asked the respondents – Maharashtra government, SEC, and BMC – to file their replies by November 25 and kept the matter for hearing on November 30.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Thursday, November 17, 2022, 01:42 PM IST
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Bombay HC | Photo: Representative Image

Observing that it was a “complex issue”, the Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government and the State Election Commission (SEC) to their replies to a petition by a former BMC corporator challenging the decision of the Eknath Sinde led government decreasing the wards within Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from 236 to 227.

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Gauri Godse has asked the respondents – Maharashtra government, SEC and BMC – to file their replies by November 25 and kept the matter for hearing on November 30.

The HC was hearing a petition filed by Raju Pednekar challenging the ordinance of August 8 reversed MVA government’s decision on the delimitation of corporation wards and reduced the number of wards to 227. Earlier, the erstwhile Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) led by Uddhav Thackeray government had increased the wards to 236.

Pednekar, who belongs to the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), approached the HC on Monday after the Supreme Court, recently, refused to entertain his plea.

During the hearing, counsels for the state government – SU Kamdar and Jyoti Chavan – sought two weeks’ time to file a reply affidavit.

However, the judges refused to grant two weeks and asked them to file a reply by in eight days. “File a preliminary reply by next week. It’s a complex issue,” said justice Patel.

Interestingly, Principal Secretary of the Urban Development Department was represented by a separate counsel, who also sought two weeks’ time to file the reply. The Principal Secretary advices the government and files reply affidavit on the government’s behalf.

VA Thorat, principal secretary’s counsel, said that the petitioner had taken over 20 days after the apex court decision on his plea, to approach the HC.

Refusing to grant more time to file, the judges clarified that “at this stage” it will not allow the petitioner to file a rejoinder affidavit (additional affidavit in reply to respondents’ affidavit).

Kamdar and Thorat orally informed the court that the ordinance was granted assent and was now an Act. The petitioner has been allowed to amend the petition, if required.

Another petition was filed challenging the reduction of the BMC wards. The HC has asked the respondents to the second petition as well.

Considering the petition was challenging constitutionality and legality of an ordinance, the HC has issued notice to the Advocate General.

The petition, filed through advocate Joel Carlos, urges that the court declare the August ordinance as “null and void”. Besides, it has sought that the process be stayed till the hearing in the petition. The plea further prays for the State Election Commission to conduct BMC elections on the basis of delimitation carried as per the Supreme Court orders of May 4 and July 20.

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