Calcutta HC stays Bengal Panchayat poll process

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Kolkata, April 12 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court on Thursday stayed the ongoing Panchayat election process in West Bengal till further orders and asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to furnish by April 16 a comprehensive status report on the polls.

The state’s opposition parties welcomed the decision of the single judge, but the ruling Trinamool Congress said it would move the division bench. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also filed a caveat in the division bench.

Justice Subrata Talukdar also imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the BJP for misrepresenting facts by moving both the Supreme Court and the high court on the same plea.

Justice Talukdar directed the SEC to include in the status report details like the number of nominations received and rejected.

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He said the next hearing on the petitions — filed by the BJP, as also the CPI-M and the Congress challenging the SEC’s April 10 order withdrawing its earlier decision to extend the filing of nominations by a day — will be held on April 16.

The judge put a number of posers before the SEC, like the number of candidates who expressed their willingness to submit their nominations between 3 p.m on April 9 and 3 p.m on April 10, and how many allegations it came across during this period.

The judge also sought to know the steps the SEC had initiated with regard to the allegations.

The SEC counsel, however, said it had no such information.

When the Trinamool counsel pointed out that the election dates had been announced, the judge said it was the SEC’s call and if need be the election dates could be deferred.

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While imposing the fine on the BJP, the judge observed that the party’s actions were akin to “forum hopping”.

The BJP representative tendered an unconditional apology.

Justice Talkukdar had on April 10 granted an interim stay on the SEC’s order the same day withdrawing its April 9 decision extending the nomination filing process by a day.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to interfere with the elections and asked the state BJP to approach the Calcutta High Court.

The panchayat elections are scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5, while the counting of votes is due on May 8.



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