Bengal panchayat polls: HC extends stay on process by a day

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday again extended, by a day till Wednesday, its stay on West Bengal's Panchayat election process in view of the ongoing hearing of a case related to the polls.

A single-judge bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar will hear the arguments by both the parties again in the first half on Wednesday.

Justice Talukdar had, on Monday, extended the original stay on the election process till April 16, by one day till Tuesday in view of an appeal filed before a division bench of the court against the stay.

However, the division bench of Justice Biswanath Samaddar and Justice Arindam Mukherjee on Monday evening disposed off the appeal filed by the ruling Trinamool Congress and the State Election Commission, stating it did not want to interfere with the case at this stage as it was already pending before the single bench.

During Tuesday's argument, Trinamool counsel Kalyan Banerjee argued that the petitions filed by Bharatiya Janata Party as well as by Communist Party of India-Marxist and others accusing the state ruling party of conducting large scale pre-poll violence in the state and demanding fresh election process, removal of the State Election Commissioner and imposition of para-military forces during the elections, are not at all maintainable.

Citing several judgement passed by the Supreme Court, he said the judge is not bound by the court's order. However, if there is a violation of the order, the court can decide appropriate proceedings, he said, adding that this does not give the court any jurisdiction to interfere in an ongoing polling process.

He also claimed halting the election process went against the interest of the candidates who successfully filed their nominations for the Panchayat polls this year.

Banerjee said the writ petition filed by BJP was not maintainable at any stage as it did not challenge the Panchayat polling process but raised concern over security issues of the party nominees which needed to be looked after by the SEC and not by the High Court.

Referring to the nomination statistics, he said the BJP filed more than 11,000 nominations in the previous state rural polls in 2013 while they have managed to file 38,000 nominations this time, and as such, their allegations of not being able to file nominations does not hold water.

Banerjee said the petition filed by the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) on the same case sought quashing of all provisions of the elections and claimed the party iseemed to be against conducting Panchayat polls in Bengal which was against the people's democratic rights.

The opposition parties have moved the court, accusing the Trinamool of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations for the polls ever since the process began on April 2.

The parties are also aggrived with the SEC after the poll panel withdrew its earlier order of extending the filing of nominations by a day, within a few hours of issuing the order last week.

The panchayat elections were originally scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5, with the counting of votes slated on May 8.



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