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The Court additionally wouldn’t permit contender to document their selection structures through web-based mode or to present their assignment papers before the Region Justice.

Tuesday, the Calcutta High Court denied a request to extend the deadline by which candidates in the upcoming West Bengal panchayat elections must submit their nomination papers.

A division bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya said that the the State Election Commission (SEC) is an independent and competent body and the West Bengal Panchayat Act, 1973 allows the SEC to alter any date other than date of polling and results.

It made it clear that the SEC must give reasons for changing polling dates before referring the matter to the state government, which can revoke the initial notification of the election dates if it is satisfied.

“However, for extending dates other than the polling date, the discretion lies with the SEC. It being an independent body, it is competent to do so. Therefore, we leave it to the discretion of the SEC, to extend the dates, if it deems it fit,” the Court held.

It likewise wouldn’t choose a resigned High Court judge as an “eyewitness” of the surveys.

It noted from the report documented by the SEC that senior officials of the West Bengal Common Administrations and furthermore the officials from the IAS framework have currently designated as spectators for the surveys which are scheduled to be held one month from now.

“We are sure that the senior officers are bound to act in due diligence and for the purpose for which they are appointed as observers. Mandate of the election commission is to have free and fair elections, maintain its purity. Decisions of the commission, based on expert legal opinion, cannot be interfered with by this court in a routine manner. Therefore, senior officers of West Bengal Civil Services and IAS officers would ensure free and fair elections and maintain its purity. Thus, we don’t see any reason for appointing a retired judge as an observer,” the bench opined. 

All things considered, the seat said the SEC must quickly demand focal powers and convey them particularly in the seats, which the surveying body has proactively proclaimed to be “delicate.”

“Going by pass incidents when the courts had to intervene on more than 12 occasions and order deployment of central forces or order central agencies to probe the violence incidents during polls or religious/political congregations, thus the State and SEC should and shall requisition central forces for the polls. Election commission must forthwith requisition central forces firstly for seats which are declared sensitive,” the bench ordered.

Two petitions for public interest litigation (PIL) were filed by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. The order was granted. Both the lawmakers moved the Court testing the notice gave by the SEC on June 9, advising the timetable of the three-level (Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Zilla Parishad) Panchayat races.

The notification granted the candidates a total of five days to submit their nomination papers, i.e. till June 15. 

The petitions argued that just five days would not be enough because there is also a Sunday in between and nomination forms are accepted only until 3 p.m. They argued that five days would not be sufficient because there are over 3.65 lakh candidates competing for the nearly 75,000 seats.

In addition, the petitions sought the establishment of CCTV cameras, the deployment of central forces, and other prohibitive measures to prevent violence during the elections.

Notably, the petitions claimed that the candidates’ lives and limbs are at risk because the workers of the ruling Trinamool Congress have seized several block offices where nominations are to be submitted.

As a result, they prayed that they could submit their nomination papers online or in person to the relevant District Magistrate.

The Court stated in its order that the State must devise a viable strategy for installing CCTVs throughout the polling places.

“Both the State and the SEC has to ensure that no polling station escapes such survillance. Also, places where it is technically difficult for installing CCTVs, the authorities will have to ensure that the entire process is videographed,” the bench clarified. 

The Court also disallowed candidates from submitting their nomination papers to the District Magistrate or submitting their forms online.

In addition, the Court made it clear to the SEC that it should only give contractual workers, civic volunteers, and even the NCC boys permission to work.

At last, on the request for insurance of government workers, who will be sent on survey obligations, the seat expressed that since paramilitary powers are requested to be conveyed, it will deal with the wellbeing and security of the surveying officials.

“Where central forces aren’t deployed it would be the duty of the State Police to protect their lives. This direction must be implemented in letter and spirit without giving any room for laxity,” the Court made it clear.  

Written by – Archana chandane intern under legal vidhiya


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