Tamil Nadu State Election Commissioner and poll body secretary today appeared before the Madras High Court in connection with a contempt plea by the opposition DMK against them for not complying with a court order on holding local body elections. SEC M Malik Ferozh Khan and secretary S Rajasekar appeared before the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar following yesterday's direction, though the duo had tendered an unconditional apology over failure to conduct the elections as directed by the court. They submitted yesterday that preparatory steps have been taken by the State Election Commission (SEC) for conducting the civic polls as directed by the court. "There is neither wilful nor wanton disobedience on complying with orders of the court on conducting the local body elections," their plea stated. The court today adjourned the hearing in the case for tomorrow.
The poll body officials would have to appear in court as directed by an earlier order. Senior counsel P Wilson, appearing on behalf of DMK submitted that there was clear constitutional breakdown in Tamil Nadu as defined in Article 356 of the constitution due to failure of the state election commission's failure to conduct the civic polls within a period of five years as mandated by the constitution. 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. 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 legal disability in conducting the polls as directed and sought to keep in abeyance the order. The DMK had questioned the urgency to issue the ordinance, and claimed that it showed "sheer abuse of power". The local body polls were originally slated to be held in October last year, but were 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.
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