SC questions Bengal poll panel’s decision of panchayat poll nominations date

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New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the move of West Bengal State Election Commission of first extending the deadline for filing of nominations for the panchayat polls and taking the decision back the next very day.

After the state poll panel urged the court to allow declaration of the results of the elections held in phases in May, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud posted said it would pass an order on August 6 after hearing the matter.

The bench also asked the poll panel whether it had conducted any inquiry before cancelling the decision on extension of time.

“Did you (poll panel) make an enquiry about the situation at the ground level before taking back the decision (extending time to file nomination papers). Why did you first extend the deadline for filing the nomination papers and later take back the decision,” asked the bench.

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On the night of April 9, the poll panel had taken note of several complaints that many candidates could not file their nomination papers as either they or their proposers were obstructed from submitting them and extended the deadline till 3 p.m. next day. However, it cancelled the order the next morning.

On Tuesday, the bench took a dim view of West Bengal panchayat election.

“It seems democracy is not working at the ground level. It is shocking that thousands of seats have gone uncontested,” the bench had said observing that over 34 per cent seats going uncontested makes it clear that part IX of the Constitution, dealing with the panchayats, was not functioning in the state.

Elections were held in phases for 48,650 posts in Gram Panchayats, 825 posts in Zilla Parishads and 9,217 posts in Panchayat Samitis and it has been alleged that around 34 per cent seats were uncontested.

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Out of a total 58,692 posts for gram panchayat village, zilla parishad and panchayat samiti, 20,159 of them had remained uncontested in the violence-marred local polls in West Bengal held in May this year.

The apex court was hearing a plea by the state election body challenging the Calcutta High Court’s May 8 order permitting e-nomination and reading into the Representation of People Act, 1954, the provision of the Information Technology Act.

The high court had allowed e-nominations in the wake of the allegations that candidates were being intimidated and threatened with violence when they approached the election authorities for nomination papers.

The top court on May 10 stayed the operation of the high court order on nomination papers and directed the State Election Commission not to notify the results of the candidates who have been declared elected unopposed.

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It had said it would examine whether a high court in exercise of its powers under Article 226 could read the provision of Information Technology Act into the Representation of People Act.

–IANS

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