Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday informed the Bombay High Court that it would not proceed with the process of delimitation of wards with respect to the cash-rich BMC till further hearing of a plea against the reduction of wards in the civic body.
A division bench of Justices SV Gangapurwala and AS Doctor was hearing two petitions filed by two former councillors – Raju Pednekar and Sameer Desai – challenging an ordinance issued by the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government on Aug 8 reducing the number of directly elected councillors within the limits of the BMC from 236 to 227.
Mr Pednekar belongs to the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray). The court was informed that the Supreme Court had kept the pleas on the issue on Dec 13. The HC kept the petition for hearing on Dec 20.
Opposing the plea, an affidavit was filed by Priyanka Chhapwale, Deputy Secretary of the Urban Development Department, stating 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,” the affidavit adds.
Stating that the law as it stood prior to Nov 30, 2021 (with 227 seats) was valid and constitutional, the government has sought that Mr Pednekar’s plea be dismissed which has been filed with “malafide” intentions and due to “political influence”.
An affidavit filed on Wednesday by State Election Commission’s (SEC) Deputy Commissioner Avinash Sanas, in response to the petitions, states that when the seats were increased by the Maharashtra 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MVA government then amended the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act by which powers of the SEC for delimitation were withdrawn and the power was entrusted with the state.
The amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court and the issue is still pending.
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