Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: Parvaiz Qadri, the Deputy Mayor in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), who had been officiating as Mayor since June 2020, has dismissed the BJP-backed candidate Junaid Azim Mattu’s election as Mayor on Wednesday as “illegal and unconstitutional” and decided to challenge it by way of a writ petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.“It was a fixed match and horse trading from the beginning. First, the government delayed and deferred the mayor’s election indefinitely. The law and the rules were changed, after Mattu was defeated in a no-confidence vote on 16th of June this year. Now that everybody was expecting the election to take place in December and the DDC elections, along with polling on four vacant wards in SMC, besides on 13000 posts of Panches and Sarpanches was underway, suddenly a notification dated 19th of November appeared in newspapers. It called for voting for Mayor on 25th November”, Qadri told STATE TIMES.“Surprisingly, the purported notification was issued by Secretary SMC (Mohammad Akbar Ganai) without approval from the competent authority i.e. acting Mayor. I was the Deputy Mayor and by law acting as Mayor in absence of an elected incumbent. Srinagar Municipal Corporation Act 2000 makes it unambiguously clear that the Mayor shall function as acting Deputy Mayor and the deputy Mayor shall function as Mayor in absence of an incumbent”, Qadri asserted.Qadri, an independent councillor currently owing allegiance to Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC), quoted the law, claiming that he alone had competence to issue the notification and preside over the Mayor’s election. “Without my knowledge, consent or approval, it was approved by Commissioner SMC (Gazanfar Ali Mir) and issued by Secretary (Mohammad Akbar Ganai). As per the law, they can do it only for the first time after the general elections when the first election for the Mayor takes place. Thereafter, only the Mayor has the authority and no official is competent by law to independently notify or preside over such elections. In absence of the Mayor, the authority lies with the Deputy Mayor”, Qadri said. The Deputy Mayor said that Wednesday’s election was “illegal” and as such unacceptable to him and “majority of the members”. He alleged that nobody from the duty magistrates listened to him and other dissenting councillors and they held the exercise with the help of Police. “We were all dragged out by the Police and prevented from exercising the right of vote if any of us wanted to vote”, Qadri complained. He said that he would be soon approaching the J&K High Court with a writ petition to seek cancellation of Mattu’s election as Mayor on 25th of November.According to Qadri, attendance of 53 members was necessary to fulfil the quorum but only 51 members were present. He said that the split of Congress members was valid only when 2/3rd majority would dissent. According to him, 12 of the 17 Congress members should have defied the whip but only 10 of them did. Besides, one Shaheena Bhat claimed on the spot that she had not signed any note of defiance.Vide his letter No: SMC/PS/HM/2745-59 Dated 20-11-2020, Qadri has sent a note of protest to Commissioner SMC with copies to Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir and District Election Officer (DEO)/Deputy Commissioner Srinagar.“It is brought to your attention that the undersigned is the Deputy Mayor of the Corporation and on account of vacancy in the post of Mayor is officiating as the Acting Mayor of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. It has come as a surprise to me that the Notification directing the conducting of election for the post of Mayor has been issued by the Secretary of the SMC when as per the Act and the Rules, the same can be issued by the Commissioner when the first election after general election is held and thereafter for every meeting by the Mayor or Deputy Mayor”, Qadri has recorded.Qadri has quoted Srinagar Municipal Corporation (Procedure and Conduct of Business) Procedure Regulations 2005 in support of his contention. He has also claimed that holding the election for Mayor in the midst of the by-election on four vacant seats of councillors alongside the DDC polling was a violation of the model code of conduct. He has made it clear to the authorities that in case the Election Commission finds it as breach of the MCC, the Secretary alone should be held responsible. Commissioner SMC Gazanfar Ali Mir did not respond to phone calls from this newspaper.
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