The Calcutta High court on Friday refused to interfere in the upcoming West Bengal panchayat poll but came down hard on the State Election Commission, asking it to function in a neutral manner. The division bench of the high court led by Justice B Somadder and Justice A Mukherjee said that they will not interfere with the dates announced by the State Election Commission. However, the court pulled up the state poll body and reminded it of its duties and warned the commission to take the order as a wake-up call.
The division bench also said that the decision of the State Election Commission’s to hold the three-tier rural election in a single phase in its second notification without providing any clarification was avoidable.
Reacting to the court’s order, West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh told FinancialExpress.com that the election will not be possible unless there is proper security. “We had approached the court on the security issue. We want the election but security first so that the citizens can cast their vote without any fear. We want a free and fair election. The court had earlier termed the poll date on May 14 as a tentative one. The court will next hear the issue on May 8. The State Election Commission and the State government don’t want elections to take place.”
Earlier on May 1, the court had said that the State Election Commission’s decision to hold the West Bengal rural polls on May 14 can be considered as a tentative date only and not the final one. The court had also said that the final decision regarding the same will be taken by the division bench.
Opposition BJP, CPI(M) and the Party of Democratic Socialism had moved the court of Justice Talukdar claiming that his earlier directions on announcing the date for elections were also not complied with by the commission with regard to prior consultations with stakeholders.
They also claimed that the commission, which had earlier announced the date for elections in three phases, has now notified that it would be done in only one phase, raising concerns over the safety and security of voters as well as candidates.
As per an earlier circular of WBSEC, the panchayat election in the state was scheduled to take place in three phases on May 1, 3 and 5 and the counting of votes was scheduled on May 8. After the direction of the High court to announce new dates, the Commission on April 21, 2018, notified April 23 as the last date for filing nominations. The last date for scrutiny is April 25 and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is April 28, 2018. The SEC on April 28 notification had announced the new date for the election to be on May 14.