The State government on Friday told the Madras High Court that the gram sabha meetings scheduled to be held on October 2 last year and January 26 this year were cancelled only because of the lockdown enforced to fight COVID-19. The submissions were made in response to two writ petitions filed for conducting the meetings.
Appearing before the first Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, State Government Pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayanan said the lockdown was the prime reason for the cancellation of the meetings. He undertook to file a detailed counter-affidavit on behalf of the State government in a week.
The judges granted him a week’s time with a rider that the cases filed by DMK principal secretary K.N. Nehru and A.G. Mourya of the MNM for conduct of the meetings would be decided without the State’s counter-affidavit if the time limit was not adhered to.
In his affidavit, Mr. Nehru pointed out that the Grama Sabhas must be conducted twice a year as per the statutory prescription under the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act of 1994 and they should be conducted on four dates — on January 26, May 1, August 15 and October 2 — as per executive instructions issued through a Government Order.
However, the government had failed to conduct them fearing discussion on the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act of 2020, the Farmers’ Produce, Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act of 2020 and also an amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, he claimed.