Rejecting the petitions filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the CPM challenging the West Bengal Panchayat polls, the Supreme Court Friday said the challenge must be pursued through election petitions instead. The top court also underlined that the charges of obstruction of elections is a serious matter. The pleas have sought cancellation of panchayat polls in over 20,000 uncontested seats. Click here to read this in Bengali
All these uncontested seats were won unopposed by candidates of the ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition parties had alleged that their candidates were obstructed from filing nomination papers.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud exercised its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution and held that the limitation period of 30 days for filing the election petitions, which has expired, would now commence from the date of notification of panchayat poll results. “Whoever is aggrieved with the election results can file their petitions before the concerned court within 30 days.”
The apex court also set aside a Calcutta High Court order allowing e-filing, through WhatsApp or e-mail, of nominations in the panchayat polls in the state. “The high court was in error while allowing the filing of nomination papers through electronic forms,” it said, adding, “no such process is either mentioned nor allowed under the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act”.
Reacting to the order, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said, “Historic verdict by SC on West Bengal Panchayat poll. Opposition parties should apologise to people of the state.”
On August 13, the Supreme Court had termed the situation as “grim and grave” and asked West Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC) whether it had done any exercise to find out if candidates were prevented from filing nominations in seats which were won unopposed in the recent local body polls.
Earlier, the West Bengal government had told the court that the row over the recently concluded panchayat polls in the state has led to a “constitutional crisis” since the tenure of several Panchayats were over and new bodies have not been made functional.
Elections were held in phases for 48,650 posts in Gram Panchayats, 825 posts in Zilla Parishads and 9,217 posts in Panchayat Samitis and it has been alleged that around 34 per cent seats were uncontested.
The panchayat polls this year led to violent clashes in the state which claimed at least twelve lives and injured several others.
(With PTI inputs)