Expressing its displeasure at the West Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC), which reversed its own decision to extend the panchayat election nomination dates by a day, the Calcutta High Court, in an unprecedented order Thursday, stayed the election process in the state till April 16.
While the Opposition BJP, which moved the Supreme Court and the Calcutta High Court seeking intervention, welcomed the order, the TMC has decided to the challenge the single bench order.
While hearing a petition filed by the BJP, which accused the TMC of unleashing violence to prevent Opposition candidates from filing panchayat poll nominations, the single bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar stayed the election process in the state till April 16 and sought a detailed report from the WBSEC on measures to address the Opposition’s complaints.
The court also asked the WBSEC to file a comprehensive status report on the poll process, detailing the number of nominations filed and the percentage of nominations rejected by Monday, the last day for filing nominations.
The court also said it would hear on April 16 pleas challenging the WBSEC’s decision to withdraw its April 9 notification, which had extended the date for filing nominations by a day. Justice Talukdar, on April 10, had stayed the withdrawal of the April 9 notification.
After extending the deadline to file nominations for the panchayat polls on April 9, the WBSEC had recalled the order a day later citing “legal complexities”. The state BJP had moved the Supreme Court against the rollback, which refused to intervene and asked the BJP to approach the Calcutta High Court instead.
As directed, the BJP moved the HC Thursday but Justice Takuldar imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the BJP for misrepresentation. The court also said that it would take a decision on April 16 on whether the poll process should resume after receiving the detailed report from the poll panel. The panchayat elections were meant to be held on May 1, 3 and 5 with the counting of votes on May 8.
The Opposition BJP, Congress and Left parties welcomed the HC order. BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “It is a historic order in favour of the people of the state. It is a victory for the people of West Bengal.”
“There is no scope for lacuna as we have to continue to unite the people in our fight to restore democracy in West Bengal,” CPM state secretary Surjyakanta Mishra said.
Reacting to the order, lawyer and TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee said, “The election process is on hold till April 16. There are a lot of earlier orders which say that once an election process starts, it cannot be put on hold. We are approaching a division bench against this order.”
TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee blamed the Opposition for stalling the election process in the state. “BJP, CPM and Congress have united against the state government and the ruling party and want to stall the panchayat election process. The people of the state will give them a befitting reply,” he said.