Bengal government ‘disregarded’ suggestion on security, court told

Kolkata, April 2 (IANS) West Bengal’s State Election Commission (SEC) Tuesday told the Calcutta High Court that the state government has “totally disregarded” its suggestion on deployment of central paramilitary forces, which is necessary for conducting free and fair panchayat polls.

This was contended by the commission’s legal counsel Samaraditya Pal while moving a petition seeking rejection of the rural body election date notified by the state government, during the first day of hearing.

The Mamata Banerjee-led government has been engaged in a war of words and letters with the election panel over the scheduling of the dates and deployment of central paramilitary forces.

During the proceedings, Pal argued that Section 42 of the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003, on the basis of which the state government had issued the notification was in conflict with the Section 243 of the constitution.

Justice Biswanath Somadder also accepted a petition moved by senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya on behalf of the Left parties, making them a party to the case.

Bhattacharya later said the petition filed by him was in support of the SEC.

Citing instances of violence during the previous panchayat polls in Bengal, Pal argued before court that clashes in the state during the elections were more than that of other states.

He said there was a”huge gap” between the numbers of the police personnel which was required to conduct the polls and the security personnel that was available in the state.

“The commission is surprised that the government has not yet made any assessment regarding what it (number of police personnel) may require and from where it will get,” Pal said while reading out from a letter sent from the SEC to the state government.

Speaking to the media, state government pleader Ashok Banerjee said: “The intention of the government is not to stall elections. The government would try to explain it before the court.”

The matter will be taken up for hearing again Thursday.

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