Trashing its idea to challenge the High Court order over rejection of nomination papers for panchayat election in the Supreme Court, the Punjab government on Thursday decided to direct the Returning Officers to review the rejection at their level within 48 hours.
A few hours after the High Court rejected review petition by state government on Thursday on its earlier orders directing the government to review the nominations, Punjab Rural Development Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, State Election Commissioner Jagpal Singh Sandhu and Advocate General Atul Nanda huddled together in a meeting. The meeting decided that the election could not be postponed and hence there was no time for the state to explore other legal options. The state has to hold the election by December 31 as otherwise the revision of electoral rolls would come into force from January 1.
Widespread rejection of nomination papers had become a political issue in Punjab. Several rejected candidates had moved the HC and the court had given them the relief. Bajwa had earlier stated that they would move SC against HC decision.
As per the State Election Commission, about 11, 400 nomination papers were rejected across the state. In a statement, the SEC said that total 49,261 nominations were filed for the sarpanch elections for 13,276 panchayats in the state, out of which 3,128 nomination papers were rejected due to various flaws and errors.
It further said that total 1,65,453 nomination papers were received for the member panchayats, out of which 8,296 nominations have been rejected. The Akalis and AAP have been alleging it to be a case of “political excess”.
The SEC directed the Returning Officers to hear those filing a review applications with them. Sources said over 2700 review applications have been filed till Thursday. The ROs have been directed to sort out these cases within 48 hours. The panchayat elections are scheduled on Sunday.
The HC direction has caused enough embarrassment to the Congress government as the party used to accuse Akalis of political excesses when Congress was in opposition. The HC order, giving relief to the rejected aspirants, is being seen as HC’s stamp on SAD and AAP allegations now. It is also a reflection on the battery of government lawyers nominated by Advocate General’s office.
While the government has lost face in public over the issue, the party leaders are crying foul. “We not only lost the case in HC that day but I review petition too did not reach anywhere. The government looks like making a mockery of itself ,” said a state minister.
All eyes are now on how those filing review applications would be handled. If nominations are to be allowed, symbols would have to be allotted and ballet papers to be printed afresh in the panchayats where nominations would be accepted afresh.