J&K govt amends Municipal Laws to choose mayor, ULBs heads through secret ballot

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Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir government has amended Municipal Laws, paving way for election of mayors of Srinagar and Jammu, and heads of local urban bodies (ULBs) through secret ballot.
The State Administrative Council (SAC) which met here Wednesday under the chairmanship of Governor Satya Pal Malik approved ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018’, an official spokesman said.

The amendment will pave the way for the election of mayors and deputy mayors of the municipal corporations and presidents and vice presidents of the municipal councils, municipal committees through secret ballot, the spokesman said.

The meeting was attended by Advisers, B B Vyas, K Vijay Kumar, Khurshid Ahmed Ganai and Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam.

The decision, in this regard, has been taken in order to remove the anomalies between the provisions of the Municipal Acts, after their amendments through the Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010, and relevant Regulations/ Bye-laws framed in the year 2005 under the original Act of 2000, he said.

The four-phase polling, starting October 8 and ending on October 16, for all urban local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir ended on Tuesday, recording an overall 35.1 per cent voter turnout in the state.

The decision to amend the Act to incorporate secret ballot in election process has been questioned by the Congress, which has sought a clarification from the government over the move.

Reacting to the proposed Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018, the J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) hit out at the government for bringing new amendment, saying the new municipal law should have come into force before holding ULBs elections.

“Although the said amendment is not going to make any big difference, but it is indicative of something that has been drawn in hurry” a JKPCC spokesman said.

He said since the Assembly stands intact, the Bill should be debated, so that the parties know its pros and cons.

In a statement, the spokesperson expressed surprise over the Municipal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 and said the government should have brought the amendment before holding the ULB elections.

The process of elections to the ULBs has completed, what was the need for bringing the new amendment at this time, the JKPCC spokesperson said.

Bringing amendment at this time is “highly objectionable”, he said, adding that the elections to mayor should be conducted as per the existing law.