Tamil Nadu government today proposed to revert to direct election of heads of civic bodies such as Mayors and moved a Bill in the Assembly in this regard. Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development, S P Velumani, moved the Tamil Nadu Municipal Laws (Third Amendment) Act, 2018, seeking to revert to direct election of Corporation Mayors, Municipal Chairmen. The Tamil Nadu Assembly had in 2016 adopted a bill to pave the way for indirect election of the heads of Municipal Corporations, Municipalities and Town Panchayats, allowing councillors to elect the Mayors and Chairmen. However, the government said it received "large number of representations" from public, elected representatives and various forums that direct election of these heads will be the "best system for smooth functioning" of urban local bodies. Velumani said in the bill that various heads of departments had also informed that in view of the indirect election, most Mayors and chairmen have to "necessarily" pay more attention in development of the division/ward from where they are elected, instead of entire areas of such Municipal Corporations, Municipalities and Town Panchayats. Further, they have to "depend" upon the strength of the councillors and members of such local bodies and they will not be in a position to act independently and take independent decision for the uniform development in the area, he said. "After careful consideration, the Government has decided to change the method of election of Mayors of Municipal Corporations, Chairmen of Municipalities and Town Panchayats, from indirect to direct election (be people), which will facilitate better administration," he said. The government has therefore decided to amend the laws in this regard, he added. The government proposed amendments to Acts governing the Corporations of Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore and district Municipalities for this purpose. Earlier, when the AIADMK government had moved a bill in 2016 seeking to make indirect election of Mayors and others, i.e. by Councillors, DMK and its allies--Congress and IUML, had opposed it. The government had then reasoned that elections to municipal corporations were being conducted on party basis. While the mayor was elected directly by the people, councils in certain bodies were not functioning properly "since the mayor does not enjoy the support of councillors", it had then said, while backing indirect election. Meanwhile, the government moved another Bill, to extend the term of Special Officers appointed to local bodies, elections to which are pending. They were appointed following court cases against the proposed local body polls in 2016. Velumani, in the statement of Objects and Reasons in the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Amendment) Act, 2018,said the elections could not be held till date due to pending cases in the Supreme Court as well as Madras High Court against the proposed polls. Further, the term of Special Officers ended on December 31, 2017, he pointed out. "The Government, therefore, decided to amend the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994 so as to enable the Government to extend the term of office of the Special Officers for a further period of six months upto June 30, 2018," he said. An ordinance had been earlier promulgated for this purpose and published in the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette, and the said Bill seeks to replace that ordinance, he added.
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