Kochi, Apr 18 (UNI) Kerala High Court today set aside the directive of the Election Commission (EC) to defer signing of the agreement for setting up the Smart City Project in Kochi till the completion of the election process.
Mr Justice S Sirijagan ordered that the state government was free to take further steps pursuant to the March one Cabinet decision to sign the agreement, not withstanding the EC directive.
The Court made it clear that it was called upon to decide only the question of the validity of the EC directive and this verdict should not be construed as an endorsement on the merit or demerit of the Smart City project.
The Court was not inclined to accept the objections raised by the EC to the effect that signing of the agreement could influence the voters in favour of the party in power. ''What has been provided in the agreement is for granting the facility for the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority (TECOM) to establilsh a Smart City in Kerala and by signing the agreement the party in power is not announcing any financial grant in any form or provides thereof the the people of Kerala,'' the Court said.
The Court was allowing a writ petition filed by the Intelligent Decision Systems Private Limited, Kakkanad, a private company, challenging the EC directive.
The petitioner submitted that the apprehension of the EC that signing of the agreement could influence the voters in favour of the party in power was without any basis.
They argued that TECOM submitted its proposal to set up the project during the second week of December 2004 and Memorandum of Understanding for it was executed on September nine, 2005.
The petitioner contended the Cabinet approved the draft agreement for the project on the forenoon of March one, 2006 before the announcement of elections and therefore by signing the agreement the Model Code of Conduct for the elections, would not be violated.
The Koirala government also supported the contentions of the petitioner and submitted that the Smart City Project would boost developmental activities in the State especially in the IT sector.
It further submitted that the Government was willing to sign the agreeement, provided the Court issued directives to that effect.
The Court was of the view that the object of the Model Code of Conduct is not to stop all governmental activities in the state, pending election.
Notwithstanding the elections, governmental functions should go on. Election Commission should examine all aspects carefully before coming to the conclusion whether the action of the government would infringe upon the Model Code of Conduct and shall not interdict all governmental activities simply because it would result in some benefit to the voters of the state or the public at large, the Court added.
UNI XR PMM PA RS1509