SEC acted at TMC's behest: CPI(M) to HC

Bengal Panchayat polls HC asks poll panel to announce fresh schedule

West Bengal Panchayat Elections to be Rescheduled, Calcutta High Court Orders SEC to Announce New Dates

The state government and ruling All India Trinamul Congress (AITC) had objected to the extension of nomination date by the SEC, which had cited a Supreme Court direction to "allay apprehensions of intending candidates" in its notification extending the nomination process by a day.

The verdict, seen as a setback to the Mamata Banerjee government, was delivered on petitions by opposition parties for nomination deadline extension after the SEC's rollback.

Justice Subrata Talukdar commenced the order by quoting Winston Churchill: "At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper, no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point - House of Commons, 31 October 1944".

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The election watchdog toed the line taken by the Trinamool Congress and told the court that the judiciary could not intervene once the election process had started. "Quite a few days have been wasted and I don't want to waste any more", CM Mamata Banerjee said.

"We had asked the commission for filing of nomination online, but SEC ruled it out and invited the troubles we had faced recently".

"We also want that the elections are held in a peaceful manner. We will later take up our demand of deployment of the central para-military forces during the polls".

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Significantly, both Trinamool Congress and the opposition parties welcomed the verdict, choosing to focus on their own sets of takeaways.

Emphatic over the victory BJP lawyer Pratap Banerjee, showing victory sign, said, "Today's verdict is historic".

It even questionned whether the BJP's petition was maintainable or not since the Opposition party moved the court after the deadline for filing nominations was already over. The laws governing panchayat polls specify that if there is an extension of nomination, then there may be an extension of only one day. "For free and fair elections central force needs to be deployed", said state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury.

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He said that the urgency to hold the panchayat polls as expressed by the SEC and TMC before the court had been proved to be void as the tenure of the present panchayat in the State would end in August. The Congress and the CPM, while welcoming the order, said they would keep an eye on how things would unfold now. "People who wanted to be candidates will get opportunity to submit their nomination but the question is, will the state police ensure the implementation of the court order".

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