- Abhijit Nath, NET Correspondent, Tripura
Agartala, July 19, 2022 : In a significant observation, the Tripura High Court recommended the state election commission (SEC) to complete the entire poll process of village committees’ election under the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) preferably within the first week of November next.
The division bench of the High Court led by Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Satya Gopal Chattopadhyay in judgement recently disposed the public interest litigation that challenged the SEC’s reluctance to hold the the Village Committees’ election in time and told the Commission to declare the polls as soon as possible.
The court observation in the concluding part reads “There is no doubt that the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District (Establishment of Village Committee) Act, 1994 under Section 20 has assigned important duties and functions to the Village Committees. Therefore, there is force in the submissions of learned counsel of the petitioners that such functions cannot be entrusted to an administrator for an indefinite period of time.”
“In such a situation, the SEC, as an independent body, will have to weigh the competing demands and expedite the entire process to hold the Village Committee elections without further delay in order to maintain the democratic norms. Though we are not proposing any rigid timelines for this purpose, keeping in view SEC’s affidavits and the materials placed before us, we would expect SEC and state machinery to notify the date of election at the earliest and complete the entire process of Village Committee elections including declaration of results preferably within the first week of November, 2022”, the observation added.
Notably, the five-year term of the elected committees came to an end on March 07, 2021. The government appointed administrators to take care and smooth functioning of those elected bodies. The petitioners – Rajesh Debbarma and Dahlia Debbarma of Sepahijala and West Tripura districts, respectively filed the PIL seeking early conducting of elections in the village committees. Citing several reasons through a series of affidavits, the SEC informed the High Court that it failed to conduct the polls in time. Appearing for the state election commission, the Advocate General Siddhartha Shankar Dey informed the Court that the poll to the VCs under TTAADC has been delayed for various reasons at the COVID pandemic is one of those.
The Court order further reads, “Respondents have further stated in their affidavit that election to the Village Committees has been delayed mainly due to the spread of coronavirus and preparation of constituency-wise electoral rolls. …Moreover, among the 37136 ‘Bru’ migrants settled in the state, 21,703 are adults who would be electors for the Village Committee elections. Therefore, the process of delimitation, disposal of claims and objections and enrollment of new voters would be time consuming which would take at least 6 months for completion of the entire process.”
However, the Commission clearly mentioned in its submission that a minimum time of 137 days to complete the whole election procedure is required and the tentative date of polling could be fixed at November 28, 2022 according to the preparations initiated while the date of notification has been slated on October 26, 2022.
Tripura ADC’s ruling TIPRA Motha spokesperson and advocate Anthony Debbarma said “The petitioners asserted that no institution should be run by appointed administrators for an indefinite period.”
The High Court in its verdict refrained itself from passing any rigid timelines for this purpose but stated “…keeping in view SEC’s affidavits and the materials placed before us, we would expect SEC and state machinery to notify the date of election at the earliest and complete the entire process of Village Committee elections including declaration of results preferably by within first week of November, 2022.”