Bengal Panchayat polls: HC asks poll panel to announce fresh schedule

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Kolkata, April 20 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) to make a fresh announcement extending the deadline for filing of nominations, and finalise a new election schedule for the Panchayat polls.

A single bench of the court quashed the SEC’s April 10 order that had cancelled the extension for filing nominations which the poll panel had announced on April 9.

Justice Subrata Talukdar directed the Commission to issue a fresh deadline extending the day for filing nominations in consultation with the state and other important stakeholders.

In his 35-page order, the judge said the Commission would then reschedule the other dates for the election process as per the rules.

As the rules provide for 21 days time between the last date of nomination and the first day of polling, the original polling dates of May 1, 3 and 5 would change, as per the court order.

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Justice Subrata Talukdar also lifted the stay on the election process.

Opposition parties — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Congress and the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) — had moved the court, accusing the Trinamool of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations for the polls ever since the process began on April 2.

The parties were also aggrieved with the SEC after the poll panel on April 10 withdrew its order issued on April 9 night extending the filing of nominations by a day.

The SEC had said it withdrew the April 9 notification following a letter of legal advice by Additional Chief Secretary of the West Bengal government Saurabh Kumar Das and Trinamool Congress vice president Kalyan Banerjee that the notification for extension was a violation of the Panchayat Act 46(2).

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On Friday, Justice Talukdar rejected the state government’s legal advice, saying once the election dates were announced, the state had no role in the election process.

As the opposition parties knocked on the doors of the judiciary, Justice Talukdar had on April 12 stayed the Panchayat election process. The Trinamool and the SEC challenged the stay, but a High Court division bench on April 16 refused to interfere in the case, and asked the single bench to hear the case.

–IANS

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