The Tamil Nadu Assembly today adopted a bill to extend the term of special officers appointed to local bodies, amid the DMK-led Opposition boycotting a voice vote held for this purpose. The Assembly adopted the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Second Amendment) Act, 2017, which allows the government to extend the tenure of Special officers upto December 31, 2017. The term of these officers, appointed following a court stay order on a September 2016 notification by the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold local body polls, ends on June 30.
The government had notified the appointment of such special officers in October last following the end of term of the previous local councils. The court had stayed the notification on a DMK plea. Today, the Bill was moved in the Tamil Nadu Assembly by Local Administration Minister SP Velumani, but opposition DMK and its allies, Congress and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) opposed it at the introduction level.
In the Statements and Objects of Reasons in the Bill, Velumani said the SEC has requested for extending the term of the special officers in view of the pendency of separate cases before the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court on the matter of holding local body polls besides the need for “statutory time required for election process, consultations and rule amendments.”.The SEC had requested the government to extend the term of the special officers “for a maximum period of six months” beyond June 30, 2017 to “administer the affairs of the rural local bodies,” beyond that date, he said.
“The government, has therefore, decided to extend the term of special officers for a further period of six months,” upto December 31 of this year, he said. DMK, Congress and IUML opposed the government move. DMK member S Austin and S Vijayadharani of Congress said already delivery of many public services including water supply and road-related works were affected due to the absence of elected local body representatives and urged the government to conduct the elections immediately. To this, Velumani said the move was “temporary.”
Opposition Leader MK Stalin said despite opposition to the Bill, there was a “situation” wherein it could go for a voice vote, adding, his party was staging a walkout against it. He led his party MLAs out of the House even as Congress and the lone IUML member, KM Mohammed Abubacker, followed suit. The amendment was later adopted by a voice vote with the ruling benches backing the government.