Why this delay in holding civic polls, asks HC

The Madras High Court on Friday asked a former chief of Tamil Nadu poll panel and five IAS officers to explain as to why contempt proceedings should not be launched against them for not holding local body elections within the court-mandated time frame.

It ordered “notice before admission”, returnable by four weeks, to six IAS officers including P. Seetharaman, former Commissioner of the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (SEC), on a contempt plea moved by the DMK against the SEC for its alleged failure to conduct the local body elections within the time frame fixed by the court.

The court sought the explanations from former Seetharaman, SEC Secretary T S Rajasekhar, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department’s Principal Secretary Hans Raj Varma, Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department’s Principal Secretary K Phanindra Reddy and Town Panchayats K Maharabushanam and Chennai Corporation Commissioner D Karthikeyan.

According to the petitioner, On February 22, a Division Bench of the court directed the SEC to conduct the local body elections no later than May 14. The commission was also directed to “truthfully” comply with the directions issued earlier by a single judge, including making mandatory the filing of affidavits declaring criminal antecedents of candidates and uploading them on its website.

The interim order was passed on an appeal by the SEC against a single judge order dated October 4, 2016, cancelling the election notification dated September 26, 2016, citing non-compliance with the Tamil Nadu Panchayat (Elections) Rules, 1995.

Now, alleging that the SEC and other authorities responsible for conducting elections to local bodies had wilfully failed to comply with the court order and complete the elections by May 14, the petitioner has sought contempt proceedings against the authorities concerned.