HC lays middle path for rural poll

A DIVISION Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday ordered holding of the panchayat elections in the state in three phases and said that the entire process should be completed by July 15.

Written by Kanchan Chakraborty | Kolkata | Published:May 14, 2013 4:21 am

A DIVISION Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday ordered holding of the panchayat elections in the state in three phases and said that the entire process should be completed by July 15. The bench of Chief Justice Arun Misra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi,however,rejected the state election commission’s demand to deploy 800 companies of the central armed forces for free and fair poll process.

The Division Bench,while hearing an appeal by the state government against the single bench order,which had accepted most of the state election commission’s demand,also directed the state government to announce the poll dates within three days after “due consultation” with the poll commission along with the list of the districts going to poll in each phase. It did not,however,elaborate on the “due consultation” process.

The order of the Division Bench is based on the consensus reached by the two sides — the state government and the state election commission. “We express our gratitude to Samaraditya Pal (counsel of state election commission) and Advocate General and other senior advocates,who with their pragmatic wisdom have reached to the aforesaid consensus,” today’s order stated.

On the contentious issue of the deployment of central armed forces as demanded by the state election commission and rejected by the state government,the bench gave a detailed guidelines on how many armed personnel and police force to be deployed in each of the four categories of booths — highly sensitive,sensitive,less sensitive and normal.

The court said that for every highly sensitive booth,the government will have to deploy two armed policemen with two constables,and at each sensitive booth two armed policemen and one constable will be posted. In the less sensitive booths,one armed policeman and one constable will be deployed at each polling premises,while in the general ones,an armed policeman will be deployed in each of the polling premises,which may include more than one polling booths.

“The state government has also undertaken in case of any shortfall (it will) requisition armed police forces from central or other states as may be considered appropriate by it (the state government),’’ the order stated.

The commission had told the court that 56 per cent of the total 57,000-odd polling booths fell in the category of “highly sensitive booths” while 5,967,sources in the commission said,were of sensitive nature.

The court also directed the state government to hand over the names of the remaining 134 poll observers not below the rank of assistant secretaries to the state election commission within three days. The government had earlier sent the names of 266 observers against the demand of 400 observers by the state election commission.

On May 10,the single judge bench of Justice Biswanth Somadder had directed the state government to hold the polls within June 10 and in three phases with the central armed forces as demanded by the state election commission.

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