The Punjab Government has “tweaked” the guidelines for the election of presidents in municipal councils and nagar panchayats, apparently to deny the opportunity to a section of the elected councillors belonging to the reserved community.
A few days ago, the local government had notified the ‘roster system’ for the reservation of SC, BC and women candidates to be elected as mayors in eight municipal corporations and presidents in 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats. The elections to the civic bodies were held in February.
In the guidelines on the elections of presidents and senior vice-president and vice president in municipal councils and nagar panchayats — issued by the Joint Director, Local Government, to the Deputy Commissioners — section 7 reads that for candidates to be elected as president against a reserved post should have been elected from a reserved ward for the specific category.
The clause not only denies the right to a reserved category candidate who has won from a general category ward, but also violates the Supreme Court order in a case of Haryana.
Local Government Minister Brahm Mohindra said, “The law has been strictly followed. But I will look into the matter.” Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) Chief Sunil Jakhar, who heads the Committee for electing mayors in municipal corporations and presidents of municipal councils and nagar panchayats, said he had no knowledge about the tweaked guidelines.
As per the “The Determination of the number of Elected Members and Reservation of Offices of President of Municipalities Rules, 1994” for municipal councils and nagar panchayats, the posts of president in Khanna, Morinda, Mukerian, Kot Fatta and Kot Ise Khan civic bodies had been reserved for SC candidates. The Kharar, Nayagaon, Nurmahal, Longowal and Kot Shamir civic bodies had been reserved for women (both general and SC) and the civic bodies of Kotkapura, Patran and Lehra Mohabat had been reserved for Backward Class candidates. The remaining municipal councils and nagar panchayats are for general category candidates.
Violation of apex court order
The apex court in one of its orders had said “whether the office of president of a municipality is required to be filled in by a member belonging to SC, ST or Backward Class,it would be enough if one belongs to one of these categories irrespective of the fact whether they have been elected from a general ward or a reserved ward”.