Tamil Nadu State Election Commissioner M Malik Ferozh Khan today appeared in the Madras High Court for the third time this week in a contempt petition filed by the DMK but failed to get any relief on his plea for dispensing with his further presence.
When the contempt petition came up for hearing, first bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar adjourned the matter to November 14 which meant the SEC had to appear on that day again.
Along with the SEC, the poll body's Secretary S Rajasekar also appeared in the court for the third time in connection with the petition which sought contempt proceedings against the two officials for not complying with orders of the court on conducting local body elections.
The matter relates to the contempt petition filed by the DMK, represented by its organisation secretary R S Bharathi, seeking to punish the officials for not complying with the orders of the high court which had earlier directed that the polls be completed by November 17.
The SEC and the secretary had appeared in the court on November 6 and 7 when their counsel made a plea seeking exemption from their further appearance which was strongly opposed by the DMK's senior counsel P Wilson.
The DMK counsel alleged that the SEC was deliberately postponing the civic polls. The dispensation of the officials' personal appearance was not a matter of right and they should continue to appear before the court till the disposal of the contempt petition, the counsel said.
After recording the submissions, a bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee, which heard the matter in the absence of the first bench sitting, posted the matter for today to decide on the plea to dispense with the personal appearance of the SEC officials.
Today, Wilson argued that about 1.31 lakh posts in various local bodies, including corporations, and panchayats, to be elected by the people, were lying vacant for more than one year and the court's order directing the SEC to complete the polls by November 17 was "brazenly defied".
Quoting the high court contempt rules, the counsel submitted that both the officials should be sent to jail straight away as they "have not only committed contempt so far but also have no intention to obey the court's order."
In its September 4 order, the court had directed the SEC to issue the notification for the polls on September 18 and complete the entire process by November 17.
However, citing repeal of certain sections of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, 1994 by the state government through an ordinance on September 3, the SEC had later moved the court, saying there was a legal disability in conducting the polls as directed and sought to keep in abeyance the order.
The DMK questioned the urgency to issue the ordinance on a Sunday, one day prior to the court was to deliver its judgement, and claimed this "shows sheer abuse of power".
The local body polls were originally slated to be held in October last year, but cancelled by Justice N Kirubakaran on a petition by the DMK seeking among others appropriate reservation as per latest census and rotation of seats according to the norms.