HC to hear stay on Bengal panchayat election today
As of now, the shadow of doubt on whether the first ballot can be cast on May 1 — first day of the three-day voting process — looms large. Opposition parties have alleged that widespread intimidation and violence prevented many of their candidates from filing their nomination papers. The SEC has pleaded for an immediate withdrawal of the HC’s interim stay.
These petitions and counter-petitions have shuttled between the Supreme Court and the two Calcutta HC benches (Justice Talukdar’s court and a division bench of Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Arindam Mukherjee) for one whole week. The trial court will, on Tuesday, hear petitions filed by the SEC, Trinamool’s Kalyan Banerjee, BJP’s Pratap Banerjee, CPM’s Rabin Deb, Congress’s Adhir Chowdhury and PDS’s Samir Putatunda.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has blamed the “organisational weakness” of opposition parties for their inability to field candidates in all seats. More than 13,000 of the 50,000-odd gram panchayat seats have seen just one nomination each. The division bench held on Monday that the trial court had passed an interim order but did not come up with a final order.
It also observed that the trial court had initially passed the interim stay on the nominationfiling process till April 24 but had later brought it forward to April 16. “The court has not shut you out. Instead, it has brought hearing forward,” Justice Somadder said. The division bench, allaying the SEC’s fears that the delay might throw the entire process off schedule, asked the single-judge bench to take up the hearing expeditiously.
Last Monday, the apex court directed the state election commissioner to address grievances of candidates who were unable to file their nominations. The court battle started after the SEC last Tuesday scrapped its own decision to extend the nomination-filing process by a day.
The matter on Monday stood exactly where it was last Thursday, when Justice Talukdar stayed the election process and asked the SEC to submit a comprehensive report on how it had followed last Monday’s SC directive. “Common sense says it may not be possible for the SEC to hold the first phase of rural polls on May 1,” senior CPM leader Bikash Bhattacharya said.