HC stays polls for 9 vacant Keonjhar councillors’ posts

Cuttack: The Odisha High Court on Tuesday asked the State Election Commission (SEC) not to come up with a notification for election of nine councillors of Keonjhar Municipality till further order.

The court, in its interim order, issued the directive after a preliminary hearing of the petition filed by Sabita Sethi and eight councillors and directed the SEC and the government to file their counter by March 14.

The court posted its next hearing of the matter to March 15.

The nine councillors’ posts have fallen vacant after the SEC disqualified nine councillors as members of the civic body for violating the whip of the Biju Janata Dal(BJD) as per the provisions of the Anti-Defection Law.

Defying the party whip, the nine dissident councilors had voted in favour of a no-confidence motion against Keonjhar municipality chairperson Meena Majhi on December 28 last year. Majhi was unseated after 15 councillors, including the nine from BJD, in the 21-member house voted against her.

BJD had threatened the councillors to disqualify them under the amended anti-defection law following which all the nine members – Sushree Sangeeta Nanda, Dillip Kumar Behera, Swarnalata Sahu, Prabhati Patnaik, Sabita Sethi, Kumudini Nayak, Satrughna Nayak, Sunil Kumar Nayak and Kuna Naik – had urged the SEC RN Senapati on January 4 not to disqualify them since they had already resigned from the party before the amended law came into force.

They had claimed that disqualification could not be applicable in their case as they, the representing group having not less than two-thirds of BJD members, had moved a no-confidence motion before the amended provision came into force, they had informed news persons after meeting the SEC.

The nine councilors had said they had resigned from the primary membership of the BJD in January last year and had conveyed their decision to the party supremo in a letter.