West Bengal Panchayat Poll 2018: Trinamool welcomes SC order, BJP says onus of safety now lies with state poll body

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New Delhi | Updated: December 30, 2018 6:58:09 AM

The Supreme Court's decision to set aside the Calcutta HC verdict mandating that the SEC to accept the nominations filed online for Panchayat elections in the state had evoked mixed reactions from political stakeholders in West Bengal.

West bengal panchayat election date 2018In a major setback to the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, the top court also asked the SEC not to declare results of those candidates who have already won without any contest in the upcoming panchayat polls.

The Supreme Court’s decision to set aside the Calcutta High court verdict mandating that the State Election Commission accept the nominations filed online for Panchayat elections in the state had evoked mixed reactions from political stakeholders in West Bengal. While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has welcomed the verdict by the top court, the Bharatiya Janata Party has said that it now becomes the duty of the state poll body to ensure the safety and security of the candidates and voters during the entire poll process.

The top court’s decision today came after the State Election Commission approached it challenging the Calcutta High Court’s verdict on Tuesday. In its plea, the State Election Commission sought a stay on the latter’s order on grounds that accepting online nominations as per the HC’s directive would amount to “irreparable loss and injury” for the poll body.

Much to its relief, the top court today made it clear that the three-tier panchayat poll will be held on May 14, 2018, as per the schedule announced by the State Election Commission. It also asked the poll body and the state government to ensure free and fair polls. Earlier this month, a single judge bench of Calcutta High court had said that SEC’s decision to conduct rural polls on May 14 is a tentative date, not a final one.

At a separate hearing today, the Calcutta High Court also clarified that law and order is a state subject and state government will be held responsible for any loss. “Law and order is a state subject. We except whenever election will be held, fair steps will be taken. The state government will be liable for loss of life and property,” the division bench said.

The apex court also directed the poll body not to issue the notification on the declaration of results on any seat till July 3. The state election commission had already declared ‘uncontested’ winners in all 42 seats in the Zilla Parishad of Birbhum district. According to media reports, a majority of these seats were won by Trinamool Congress candidates.

Here is how the Trinamool Congress, BJP and the Left have reacted to the SC verdict:

Speaking to FinancialExpress.com following the verdict, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that Panchayat polls will be held on May 14, the court has given the task to SEC. Now the ball is in SEC’s court to deploy proper security arrangements. The court has also put a stay order on the declaration of results on 34 percent seats till July 3.” Referring to the observations of the Calcutta High Court, Ghosh laid the onus of safety and security of of voters and candidates squarely on the state poll body. “If there is any loss of life during the election then the concerned officers have to pay the compensation. The poll body is under pressure.”

CPI(M) leader and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose told news agency ANI, “Some candidates who have filled e-nominations are being threatened and attacked to withdraw their nominations. Nobody expect the Election Commission knows the details about these nominations.”

Trinamool Congress General Secretary Partha Chatterjee has welcomed the court’s order. Addressing to media, Chatterjee said, “We are happy. The opposition party tried its best to delay the vote. There was a huge loss of developmental works in the state. The opposition has no other way except going to court to delay the vote. We are happy that now common people can cast their vote. Congress, CPI(M) and BJP are trying to delay the fundamental rights of the common man.”

Earlier, the date for panchayat polls was fixed in three phases on May 1,3 and 5. After the intervention of the Calcutta High Court, the poll body notified May 14 as the new date.

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