High Court orders fresh dates for Bengal panchayat polls

BJP leader Mukul Roy Bengal Ramnavmi BJP Ramnavmi Rally Hindtuva Agenda Trinamool Congress Rahul Sinha

Rahul Sinha

The Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the West Bengal State Election Commission to make a fresh announcement extending the deadline for filing of nominations for the coming panchayat polls and finalise a new election schedule.

After Justice Subrata Talukdar passed this order on Friday, the previous polling dates of May 1, 3 and 5 would automatically stand cancelled because technically there has to be a gap of at least 21 days between the last day of nomination and the first day of polling process.

Sources said commissioner Singh made it clear to the parties that their concerns would be addressed in keeping with the spirit of the high court order. "We welcome it", BJP petitioner Pratap Banerjee told media persons. He said they do not want the polls to be held during the scorching heat of summer or during the monsoon or during Ramzan.

The HC, in a setback for the Trinamool, set aside the argument that it had no jurisdiction to hear poll matters when the election process was on after Trinamool MP Banerjee spent hours on this point during his submission, going to the extent of citing Supreme Court orders to argue that any allegation that had the "effect of vitiating an election should be brought up only at an appropriate stage in an appropriate forum before a special tribunal".

Opposition hailed the ruling as their moral victory. It has dealt a mortal blow to the ruling dispensation.

However, the Trinamool refused to accept that the verdict had gone entirely against them.

Ever since the poll dates have been announced by the SEC, the eastern state has witnessed widespread violence primarily by the TMC and emerging principal opposition BJP.

"The election will decide who has worked for the people so far and who will continue to work in the future".

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).

CPI (M) leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said opposition parties would move the court again if the commission fails to provide security to their candidates.

Notification cancellation on April 10 for extension of nomination by SEC is not valid. The SEC, however, withdrew the notification extending the deadline to file nominations to April 10 in the morning after the state government and the ruling Trinamool Congress objected.

"We had asked the commission for filing of nomination online, but SEC ruled it out and invited the troubles we had faced recently".

The BJP moved the high court challenging the withdrawal and Justice Talukdar stayed the election process on April 12.

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