CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu State Election commissioner M Malik Ferozh Khan and its secretary S Rajasekar today tendered an unconditional apology in the Madras High Court on a contempt plea by the DMK over failure by the poll body to conduct the civic elections as directed by the court.
They submitted 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", they submitted and prayed to close the contempt petition.
When the contempt petition came up for hearing on November 10, 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.
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 also 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 then 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.
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 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.
The first bench headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee on September 4 directed the SEC to publish election notification for all local bodies before September 18 and to conduct the election by November 17.
As the above order was not complied the original petitioner DMK has filed the contempt petition.
The contempt petition is scheduled to come for hearing tomorrow.