Court refuses to suspend ruling on Bengal polls

Kolkata, May 13 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court, hearing the West Bengal government’s appeal over the panchayat polls issue, Monday refused to suspend its earlier verdict that upheld the primacy of the state election commission.

The state government appealed before the division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice J.M. Bagchi for an injunction against Justice B. Sommader’s verdict Friday wherein the court directed the poll panel to conduct the rural body elections in three stages, deploying central security forces.

Hearing the appeal, the bench refused to grant the state government’s plea to suspend Justice Sommader’s verdict that observed that “conducting panchayat polls is a constitutional obligation which cannot be postponed”.

The court said it will hear the appeal on a day-to-day basis and dispose of the matter swiftly.

It also directed the two parties – the appellant (state government) and the respondent (SEC) – to conclude their arguments and submissions as early as possible, preferably by Tuesday.

In the appeal, the government also sought an injunction on the verdict, citing it was “impractical to implement”.

Appearing for the state, Advocate General Bimal Chatterjee also contested the state election commission’s (SEC) demand for 800 companies of security forces and deployment of at least two security personnel in each polling booth for the panchayat polls.

He argued that the demand was made without any scientific assessment.

The court later directed the SEC to furnish details and list of sensitive and hyper-sensitive polling booths Tuesday.

Justice Sommader Friday in his verdict said the primacy of the SEC was non-negotiable and had directed that the rural polls be held in three phases as sought by the commission, rejecting the state’s notification for holding the elections in two phases.

The verdict also allowed the commission demand to use central paramilitary forces for the polls, which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had been denying to use saying the law and order situation in the state did not warrant the use of the central forces.

The appeal will again come up for hearing Tuesday.

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