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Date of Judgment 20th June, 2023
Court Supreme Court of India
Case TypeSpecial Leave Petition (Civil) No. 12294 of 2023
Appellant The State Of West Bengal and Ors.
Respondent Suvendu Adhikari and Ors.
BenchHon’ble Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Hon’ble  Justice Manoj Misra


The Panchayat elections in the State were scheduled for July 8, 2023, according to the West  Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC). The deadline for submitting nominations was  June 15. The nominations could no longer be withdrawn as of June 20. 

Numerous candidates from opposition parties allegedly experienced physical obstruction  during the nomination process from Trinamool Congress local workers, the state legislature’s  ruling party.  

Suvendu Adhikari, a BJP MLA and the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal State  Legislative Assembly, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Calcutta High Court  requesting directions to deploy paramilitary forces in all politically sensitive zones of the SLA  due to the level of violence and atrocities committed against the candidates of the various  Opposition Parties and the worsening condition of law and order in the State amidst police  inaction. 

In a decision dated June 13, 2023, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court, comprised of  Chief Justice T.S. Sivagananam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, took note of the situation 

and ordered the State Election Commission to identify the politically sensitive areas in the State  and deploy Central paramilitary forces within 24 hours. 

The Commission said that it would take a few days to evaluate, identify, and deploy  paramilitary personnel in politically sensitive areas from a law-and-order perspective. 

In response to another PIL filed by Suvendu Adhikari, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High  Court, consisting of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagananam and Justice Uday Kumar, took note of the  non-compliance with its previously dated order, and stated that taking more time would not  help in the “purity of the election process’ ‘. On June 15, 2023, they ordered the State Election  Commission to deploy Central para-military forces in all the districts of the Central  Government must cover all expenses associated with the deployment of the Central Forces,  according to the Court. 

The West Bengal State Election Commission and the West Bengal Government both appealed  the aforementioned Calcutta High Court ruling to India’s Supreme Court. 


1. Was it proper for the High Court to authorise the deployment of Central Forces across all  of the State’s districts? 

2. Was the time allotted to the State Election Commission enough to perform a preliminary  evaluation of the State’s sensitive areas? 


Speaking on behalf of the Government of West Bengal, senior Advocate Siddharth Agarwal  argued that the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court erred by ordering the deployment  of Central paramilitary forces in all of the State’s districts without even considering the  sensitivity of the area or the level of the State Police’s capability to handle the situation. He  said that even though there was enough of time before the election (8 July), the High Court 

ordered deployment to happen within only 48 hours. He said that the High Court’s orders, which  were issued before the Commission’s initial inquiry was complete, were hastily prepared.  Additionally, he said that engaging officers at various levels of the police force would only lead  to turmoil and confusion. He also maintained that there was precedence for such an occurrence  happening in the State when CRPF personnel opened fire on a gathering during the State  Legislative Assembly Elections in 2021, killing four people.  

Additionally, he said that additional police forces might be required for the conduct of free and  fair elections on July 8, 2023, as well as for all election-related activities up until that date.  However, it is up to the State Government’s discretion whether to request additional police  forces from neighbouring States or the Central Government after consulting the State Election  Commission. Thus, in this instance, the assailed decisions of the High Court had limited the  State’s latitude. 

For the West Bengal State Election Commission, senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora argued that  it is up to the state election to determine how sensitive the polling places are. She said that the  High Court PIL was filed on June 9—just one day after the votes were announced—without  waiting for the Commission to take any action. 

She further cited a 2018 ruling of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, which said that the parties  involved might also contact the Election Commission of India to address their complaints  through appropriate submissions. She claimed that the High Court’s instructions to the West  Bengal State Election Commission were unnecessary and well beyond of the learned Court’s  purview. 

Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, who is representing the West Bengal State Election  Commission, said that the High Court erred by imposing strictures on the SEC and acting as  though the Commission was not carrying out its mandate. He thus requested that the High  Court’s pointless comments be removed from the final rulings.


Suvendu Adhikari’s representative, senior Advocate Harish Salve, argued before the court that  the West Bengal State Election Commission was acting in a very partisan manner and that it  was clear from the way the Commission filed its Special Leave Petition that it was supporting  and favouring the West Bengali government. 

He said that the High Court had previously given a similar directive in order to support the  ruling it made on June 15, 2023. The High Court had previously given similar instructions to  maintain free and fair elections in the State. Additionally, it was asserted that the ruling was  given because the State Election Commission disobeyed the court’s order with the date of  13.06.2023. 


The Supreme Court of India’s Division Bench, which was composed of Hon’ble Justices B.V.  Nagarathna and Manoj Misra, found this to be a rare and exceptional case where it was  noteworthy to note that members of various political parties, who are ideologically on opposite  sides of the political spectrum, voiced a common concern and requested very similar reliefs  when they filed their respective Writ Petitions at the High Court.  

The West Bengal State Election Commission and the Government of West Bengal filed  petitions contesting the decisions of the Calcutta High Court. (dated 13.06.2023 and  15.06.2023.) 

To emphasise the significance of an independent body “insulated from political and/or  executive interference” to conduct free and fair elections in the nation, the Court cited its earlier  rulings in T. N. Seshan v. Union of India. 

The Court also cited its earlier ruling in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain to emphasise how  crucial it is to hold free and fair elections that are “not rigged and manipulated” in order to  determine the popular will of the nation’s legal residents and to maintain the confidence of the  general public in the democratic institutions.

The Calcutta High Court’s previous order was not implemented by the West Bengal State  Election Commission with due diligence, and the Court noted this while dismissing the petition.  The Court upheld the High Court’s order because it had no other choice, given the history of  electoral violence, other than to order the State Election Commission to send Central  paramilitary forces to all of West Bengal’s districts in order to maintain law and order. The  Central Government was to bear the full expense of deploying and controlling the Central  Forces, so neither the Government of West Bengal nor the State Election Commission should  have any issues with their deployment. 

When the respondents had a remedy available where they may also make a legitimate  representation before a relevant forum first as provided by the Apex Court in its prior order,  the Supreme Court questioned whether the High Court’s method of giving such directives was  correct. 

The Supreme Court ruled that given the impending Panchayat elections in the State and the  little amount of time available, the High Court’s directives were appropriate under the situation. 



This Article is written by Kritika Goyal of Trinity Institute of Innovations in Professional  Studies, Intern at Legal Vidhiya.


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