A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Friday asked the State Election Commission (SEC) and the Trinamool Congress to file their appeals first to seek urgent hearing of their pleas to challenge a single judge bench order that stayed the panchayat elections in West Bengal.
The bench, comprising justices B Somadder and A Mukherjee, said it would hear the appeals on Monday after the SEC and the TMC file their appeals and serve notice on all parties involved. While staying the panchayat polls, the single judge bench had yesterday also fixed further hearing of the matter on April 16.
SEC Secretary Nilanjan Shandilya and TMC vice president Kalyan Banerjee made a verbal plea before the division bench this morning, seeking urgent hearing of their appeals against Justice Subrata Talukdar’s order that stalled the panchayat election process in the state.
Both Shandilya and Banerjee appeared in person owing to an ongoing cease work protest by high court lawyers. While staying the election process, the court also sought from the SEC a comprehensive status report on the poll process by Monday, detailing the number of nominations filed and the percentage of nominations rejected, amongst other issues.
Justice Talukdar had said he would hear on April 16 the pleas challenging the SEC’s decision to withdraw its April 9 notification which had extended the date for filing nominations by a day. The judge had earlier stayed the withdrawal of the notification, directing the state poll panel to treat its order of cancellation as kept in abeyance.
The nomination process for the panchayat polls ended on April 9, but had been extended by a day by the SEC, which later withdrew the notification. The panchayat elections were to be in three phases from May 1 to May 5 and the counting of votes was scheduled on May 8.
Challenging this, the BJP moved the high court. The apex court had on Wednesday directed the BJP to approach the Calcutta High Court with its grievances over the deadline for filing of nominations for the panchayat polls in West Bengal. Apart from the BJP, the CPI(M) and the Congress too have moved the high court separately challenging the SEC’s decision