Mumbai: The Bombay high court (HC) refused to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL), seeking postponement of elections to the Maharashtra legislative council from Pune, Nagpur, and Aurangabad graduates and teachers’ constituencies because of low-voter registration.
Laxman Chavan, president of Prajasattak Bharat Paksha, had also sought a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) not to hold the elections till at least 50℅ of graduates from these constituencies are registered as voters.
A two-member division bench of the HC, comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik on Friday, refused to entertain the PIL “in view of the clear bar imposed by Article 329 of the Constitution of India” regarding electoral matters.
In Maharashtra, out of the 78 members of the legislative council, 31 are elected by members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), 21 by elected representatives from local authorities, 12 are nominated by the Governor and seven each are elected by graduates and teachers from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Konkan, Aurangabad, Nagpur, and Amravati constituencies.
The PIL, filed through advocate Asim Sarode, cited that on September 5, 2016, ECI had issued instructions to all chief electoral officers to make special efforts to ensure that each and every eligible voter is duly enrolled.
They were ordered to facilitate the online filing of the application forms, give wide publicity to the process of revision of electoral rolls, and set up special counters for the collection of applications.
They were instructed to use voter registration centres for assembly elections and also get voters enrolled for legislative councils.
Chavan complained that these instructions were not followed in Maharashtra because of which the ratio of registered voters to the population of the constituencies is abysmally low.
The petitioner gave examples in his plea to bolster his argument.
Though the population of Pune graduates constituency, comprising all five districts of western Maharashtra, is 2.34 crores, including 1.94 educated people, the corresponding figure for registered voters is 3.08 lakhs, or 1.58% of the constituency’s total population, the plea stated.
Similarly, in Nagpur constituency barely 1.22 lakh graduates, or 1.23% of the total population of 1.17 crores, are registered as voters.
While in Aurangabad constituency, the percentage of voters to the population is 2.48℅.
In Aurangabad, 3.55 lakh graduates are registered as voters, even though the total population of the constituency is 1.87 crores, including 1.43 crore educated people.
The PIL stated that in 2014, when elections were held in these three constituencies, 60.14% of the registered voters of Nagpur had exercised their franchise.
Both Pune and Aurangabad had reported a poor turnout of 25.78℅ and 34.03℅, respectively.
Chavan blamed the authorities concerned for their lack of initiative to ensure registration of graduate and teacher constituencies, despite the fact that the revision of voters’ list is always a work in progress.
He cited the inordinate delay in the publication of the new electoral list, even though the terms of the members elected from the three graduate constituencies would end in July.