Saturday, December 2, 2023

West Bengal panchayat polls: Supreme Court to hear tomorrow petitions challenging Calcutta HC order on deployment of Central forces

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The Supreme Court has given assent for hearing two petitions challenging the June 15 order of the Calcutta High Court, which directed the State Election Commission of West Bengal to deploy Central forces for all districts in the state within 48 hours for the Panchayat polls, scheduled to be held on July 8, on Tuesday.

Both the State of West Bengal and the West Bengal State Election Commission had moved the Apex Court against the Calcutta High Court order, which directed the SEC to make requisition and deploy Central forces in the state, following violence in the run-up to the panchayat polls.

The Apex Court said that 48-hour deadline has passed and that the SEC could file an application before the High Court for more time. On insistence of SEC, the top court of the country listed the matter for hearing on June 20.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sivagnaman and Justice Uday Kumar of Calcutta High Court had passed the order on Thursday on a petition filed by Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Legislative Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari.

Noting that a direction for earmarking sensitive areas and deploying forces was passed on Tuesday but no appreciable steps were taken in this regard, the High Court ordered the Commission to immediately requisition the deployment of Central forces within 48 hours of the Court judgement for all districts of West Bengal.

On submission of the Commission that it may take a couple of days to identify sensitive areas from the law and order point of view, the Bench noted that taking more time would only cause more damage and would not help the ‘purity’ of the election process.

The High Court ruled that the costs for the deployment would be borne by the Central government and no costs would be charged from the state of West Bengal.

It also directed the SEC to ask its election officers to display their identity cards and whenever called upon, prove their identity during the election process.

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