Government defers Mayoral elections of SMC

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Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC)

SRINAGAR — In an extraordinary move, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday deferred Mayoral elections of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) after effecting changes in the law governing the election through an executive order.

Just a day before the Mayoral election, the Jammu and Kashmir government issued an order that empowers it to extend the time limit of conducting the elections up to a maximum of three months from the date the office of the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor falls vacant.

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The Principal Act provides that election should be held within one month from the date the post of the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor falls vacant.

The time limit for conducting the election has been extended by invoking Section 427 of Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act-2000 that empowers government to remove difficulties in giving effect to the provisions of the Act.

“If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act or by reasons of anything contained in this Act to any other enactment for the time being in force, the Government may, as occasion requires, by order direct that this Act shall during such period as may be specified in the order but not extending beyond the expiry of two years from the commencement orders have effect subject to such adaptations whether by way of modification, addition or omissions as it may deem to be necessary and expedient,” reads Section 427 of Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act.

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The government has incorporated a proviso in the law through Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation (Removal of Difficulties) Order, 2020 that empowers it to extend time limit for holding election for these posts.

“In Section 36, after second proviso to sub-section (2), following proviso shall be inserted, namely: ‘Provided also that the Government may, if the circumstances so warrant, on account of reasons of internal security, public health including health pandemic, natural calamity such as floods, earthquake, snowstorm or an event of a similar nature or any other reason which is a hindrance to the conduct of election of the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor, by reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the time limit of conducting the elections up to a maximum of three months from the date the office of the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor falls vacant,” reads the order.

Interestingly, the removal of difficulties order has been issued twenty years after enactment of the law.

Subsequently, the Housing & Urban Development issued a separate order to extend the deadline for holding Mayoral elections of SMC to three months from the date the office of the Mayor fell vacant.

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According to the order, Commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation has informed the government the conduct of election to the post of Mayor within the period of one month prescribed by Section 36 of the J&K Municipal Corporation Act, 2000, which expires on 16th July, 2020, is not possible due prohibition of inward/outward movement of people in/from the areas declared as Red zones.

The post of Mayor, Srinagar Municipal Corporation has fallen vacant on 16th of June 2020 and is to be filled up within a period of one month, in terms of Section 36 of the Jammu Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act, 2000. The order states that the District Magistrate, Srinagar (Chairman, District Disaster Management Authority, Srinagar) has issued orders prohibiting any inward/outward movement in Red zones of Srinagar district.

“The Commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, vide his communication referred to above has informed that 88 areas of Srinagar district have been designated as Red/Containment zones for the management of COVID-19, under the said orders of the District Magistrate, Srinagar, and that a large number of Councilors reside/fall in these areas,” the order reads.

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