THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state govt on Monday hurriedly passed the Kerala municipality and panchayat raj amendment bills without following the mandatory procedures to send them for consideration of the subject committee or select committee of the assembly.
The speaker considered the bills while the opposition was protesting in the well of the House seeking a probe into the bar bribery allegations.Though it is a routine affair in such circumstances to refer bills for the consideration of the subject committee, the govt — in an unusual move — suspended rules 76, 77 and 237 of procedures of the legislative assembly and passed them.

As per rule 76, when a bill — other than an appropriation bill — is introduced, the member-in-charge may make one of these motions with regard to it, namely — refer it to the appropriate subject committee, refer it to a select committee or circulate it for the purpose of eliciting opinion thereon. As per rule 237, the subject committee has the powers to make appropriate changes in the bill referred to it or register the dissent of committee members, which will be sent along with the bill for the assembly’s consideration.
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All these provisions were waived, and the bills were passed without the opposition’s cooperation. As per the bills, the delimitation of local body wards will be carried out using the 2011 census data, while the latest data based on the upcoming census is expected in a couple of years.
As per Article 243-P (g) of the Constitution, “population” means population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which relevant figures have been published and this holds good technically for the govt’s latest move. However, the hurriedly made move raises suspicion as the population increase is significant in the past 10 years, based on which the upcoming census is planned.
“Waiting for all these years and coming up with a delimitation based on a13-year-old data itself is not well-intended. The govt could have waited for some more time to undertake the process based on the next census data,” an officer related to census operations said.
Also, as per the amendment, the minimum and maximum number of wards in a panchayat should be 14 and 24, respectively (from the existing 13 and 23). Thus, when the delimitation is carried out on the basis of 2011 census data, any number of wards can be added (up to 24) in a panchayat towards the minimum number. At the same time, for a panchayat with 23 wards, only one ward can be added irrespective of any increase in population.
This will create an overall imbalance in the population to number of wards ratio as envisaged in the Panchayati Raj Act. Experts said under such circumstances, the ideal move would be to redraw the whole local body and create new ones if required, but since the administrative boundaries had been frozen because of census operations, it cannot be done till the process is completed.
Opposition leader V D Satheesan has registered his protest, in writing with speaker A N Shamseer, against denying the opposition members their rights to voice views on the bills.

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