Chennai, Sept. 6: Madras High Court today ruled that DMK leader M.K. Stalin “cannot act any further as Chennai Mayor”.
The court also struck down as “unconstitutional and void” the “Tamil Nadu Municipal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2002”, enacted recently by the Jayalalithaa government to bar MLAs and MPs from holding top posts in local bodies, including mayorships of corporations.
Admitting a petition by advocate S. Udayakumar challenging the validity of the enactment to enforce the one-man-one-post principle vis-à-vis legislators and members of local bodies, the court said that though it was not questioning the competency of the Tamil Nadu Assembly to enact such a law, there were definitive limitations to exercise such power.
Stalin, however, stood to lose the Chennai mayor’s post as the court simultaneously admitted two other petitions challenging his candidature for the mayor’s post for two consecutive terms, before he was elected to that post in October 2001.
Stalin’s “seat as mayor falls vacant” from today, the judges said. There was no immediate response from the DMK as its top leadership, including president M. Karunanidhi and Stalin, are in Goa.
Delivering the verdict, the high court said legislative bodies were not “prevented” from making laws affecting the “substantive rights” of persons retrospectively. However, it noted this is not an unrestricted power conferred on legislatures.
Citing a verdict of the Supreme Court, the judges said: “Only such rights which cannot be said to be vested rights can be taken away retrospectively.”
Stating that Chennai Corporation was governed by provisions of the Madras (now Chennai) City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919, the judges said the qualifications and disqualifications prescribed under Sections 51 and 52 of that Act “can be made applicable only to a councillor or deputy mayor”. What applies to a mayoral candidate is contained only in a provision of Article 243-V of the Constitution.
Referring to the disqualification provisions under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, the judges said Stalin did not suffer from any such disqualification under this Act or under the constitutional provisions related to the mayoral poll. He was elected as mayor for a five-year tenure, which “is his vested right”, the bench said.
However, while dealing with the other two connected petitions, the judges said under the municipal corporation Act as it stood now, an out-going mayor or deputy mayor is not eligible for re-election “for the period up to the next ordinary election”. As the election to the Chennai Corporation held on October 16, 2001, was the second consecutive election for Stalin, he was “ineligible to contest the mayoral post”, added the judges.