Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed petitions filed by former corporators challenging the Maharashtra government’s ordinance reversing the previous Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s decision to go ahead with the delimitation of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) wards.
The order was passed by a division bench of Justices SB Shukre and MW Chandwani while hearing petitions filed by two former councillors – Raju Pednekar and Sameer Desai.
“We find no substance in both the petitions. Both the petitions stand dismissed,” said the bench while dismissing the petitions.
MVA initiated delimitation process
In 2021, the MVA initiated the delimitation process and increased the number of electoral wards from 227 to 236. However, on August 8, the present government reduced the number of wards to 227. On September 8, the ordinance was replaced by the Act.
Pednekar, a former corporator belonging to Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), had approached the HC after the Supreme Court granted him the liberty to withdraw his plea and move the Bombay High Court regarding the issue.
Raju Pednekar approached HC
He sought quashing the government’s decision stating that it was against the Constitution. Pending the hearing of his plea, he sought a stay on the decision. Further he prayed that the State Election Commission (SEC) conduct the BMC elections based on delimitation conducted earlier, as per the Supreme Court’s orders on May 4 and July 20.
His plea had contended that in February 2022, the HC had dismissed pleas against the delimitation initiated by the MVA government increasing the BMC wards to 236. It was after this, that the SEC published a final notification in the official gazette.
Maharashtra govt contended plea was filed with 'ulterior motives'
The government has contended that the plea has been filed with “ulterior motives”. An affidavit filed by Priyanka Chhapwale, Deputy Secretary of the Urban Development Department, contended that there was a miniscule increase in population from 2001 to 2021 census and hence wards were not increased for the elections which took place in 2012 and 2017.
The 2001 census showed Mumbai's population as 1,19,78,450 which increased to 1,24,42,373 in 2011 which is an increase of only 3.87%. “It is a well settled principle of law that the right to contest an election does not have the status of fundamental rights. Instead the said right is a mere creature of a statute,” it said.
SEC chief said they had to scrap work done in regard to pre-poll phase and redo it when wards were delimited to 236
Stating that the law as it stood prior to Nov 30, 2021 (with 227 seats) was valid and constitutional, the government has sought that Pednekar’s plea be dismissed which has been filed with “malafide” intentions and due to “political influence”.
The State Election Commission’s (SEC) Deputy Commissioner Avinash Sanas had filed an affidavit stating that when the seats were increased by the government from 227 to 236, the SEC had to scrap the work already done by it with regard to the pre-election process and restart it. It said the previous MVA government then amended the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act by which powers of the SEC for delimitation were withdrawn and the power was entrusted with the state.
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