Forces: SC seeks Centre,states replies

The tussle between the West Bengal government and the poll panel over panchayat elections

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: June 27, 2013 12:50 am

The tussle between the West Bengal government and the poll panel over panchayat elections has reached the Supreme Court,which on Wednesday,sought responses from the state and Centre over deploying adequate security forces.

“List this matter on June 28,when the WB government and the Centre,will apprise this court as to how they propose to meet the requirements of forces mentioned in the order of May 14 of the High Court as well as the communication of the State Election Commission (SEC) of May 14 and June 22,” said a Bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi.

On May 14,the HC rejected the SEC’s plea for 800 central force companies to man the panchayat polls,and directed that the election be held in three phases and the process be completed by July 15. Later,the court clarified,saying SEC would decide on the requirement of forces and the state would make arrangements for it. Apparently not satisfied with the proceedings at Calcutta HC,the SEC moved the SC. The poll panel’s counsel had informed the High Court earlier in the day that they had filed a petition in SC.

On being informed so,the Bench led by the High Court’s Chief Justice said it was “fed up” with the matter and was happy the SC took over as there will be a speedy verdict.

Allowing an urgent hearing of the petition,the SC issued notices to the Centre and state and fixed the matter for hearing on Friday. The poll panel and the WB government have been at loggerheads over the issue of deployment of central security forces for the July 2,6 ,9 panchayat polls.

As the Centre refused to give any paramilitary forces and the state confirmed that it had received no response from other states,the HC suggested that the polls be held in five phases instead of three. In response,West Bengal suggested four-phase polls instead of three or five. The SEC has maintained the stand that unless the government gave it in writing how much force it could deploy,it was unable to hold free and fair elections. Its lawyer submitted before the SC ,Wednesday,that the poll body was ready to hold elections in more phases but security forces must be provided. It said the commission needed 2,41,000 security personnel of which 1,40,000 should be armed.

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