Calcutta HC questions exigency of Bhabanipur bypoll

The bypoll to the Bhabanipur Assembly constituency took a critical turn after acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, Rajesh Bindal, on Friday questioned the exigency of the by-election, besides asking who will take the financial responsibility of this election.

The division bench comprising Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj also refused to take on record the affidavit filed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the PIL petition challenging the decision of the poll panel to prioritise the by-election in Bhabanipur, from where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to contest on September 30.

The bench was hearing the PIL underscoring the special request received by the EC from West Bengal Chief Secretary to hold by-election in Bhbanipur.

The Chief Secretary in the letter addressed to the EC had mentioned that there would be a ‘constitutional crisis’ if the by-election is not held in Bhowanipore on an urgent basis.

“Some people contest elections and win and then they resign for various reasons. Now someone is resigning to give someone a chance to win from the seat again. Who will bear the cost of this election? Why should the tax-payers’ money be spent for this election,” the bench asked.

Earlier, the court had asked the Election Commission to file an affidavit regarding the contents of the notification issued by it dated September 6 in view of the arguments raised by the petitioner.

The court wanted to know from the poll panel why by-election was only allowed in Bhabanipur, and why did the commission think that if by-election is not held there immediately, it would lead to a constitutional crisis.

The bench came down heavily on the poll panel for filing the affidavit in an incorrect format and also observed that the affidavit did not contain any specific averments pertaining to the issues raised.

“Nothing is mentioned in the affidavit, who filed it? We cannot take this on record,” Bindal said.

Senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, appearing for the petitioner, also contended that such an affidavit must not be taken on record and pointed out that vital averments had not been affirmed in it.

“Is this the kind of affidavit that the highest constitutional authority should submit,” Bhattacharya asked.

Advocates Dipayan Chowdhury and Sidhant Kumar, appearing for the Election Commission, contended that the affidavit had been prepared in ‘great hurry’ and thus contained errors. Accordingly, the court’s leave was sought to file a fresh affidavit.

However, the bench declined to accede to the request by observing that it is not keen to take any pleading on record now since the hearing of arguments has already been completed.