Calcutta HC refuses to interfere in Panchayat polls, slams SEC

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Kolkata, May 4 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court on Friday refused to interfere with the West Bengal Panchayat election schedule. It also criticised the role of the poll panel in conducting the process, that has faced the opposition’s ire at various points.

A Division Bench of Justice Biswanath Samadder and Justice Arindam Mukherjee, however, refused to quash the State Election Commission (SEC) notification announcing the fresh polling date on May 14.

The bench was hearing a petition by the Congress that claimed the SEC notification should provide all dates starting from the nomination process till the results, instead of just the polling schedule.

It pulled up the SEC for not following its April 20 order to hold “meaningful discussions” with all key stakeholders regarding the security arrangements and submit a report to the court on the same.

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It observed that the constitutional body’s decision to reduce the polling from three phases to one phase without any clarification, raised eyebrows.

The court also asked the SEC to consider its observations as a “wake up call” and conduct the polling process in a neutral manner in future.

The bench directed that the observations made by the high court could not be used by any political party or individual participating in the elections.

The SEC had earlier announced three phased polling on May 1, 3 and 5 but was asked by the Calcutta High Court to announce a fresh election schedule in view of the ongoing hearing of a case related to the pre-poll violence and issues over submission of nomination papers.

The petitioner Ritju Ghoshal of the Congress said the Court’s observations pointed out there were certain shortcomings in the process followed by the commission and it was a good step towards conducting free and fair elections in future.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party that on Friday appealed to the court to allow it to be a party to the petition, claimed that the decisions taken by the SEC under the influence of the ruling party Trinamool Congress and the state administration, has created complications.

“We are not in favour of deterring or halting the Panchayat polls. But things have become complicated because the SEC has worked in favour of the Trinamool and state government, instead of working as an independent body,” state BJP leader Pratap Banerjee said.

–IANS

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