9 Jun 2023 3:46 PM GMT
The Calcutta High Court today held urgent hearing in two PILs moved by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and BJP's Suvendu Adhikari regarding the upcoming Panchayat elections slated to be held on July 8.A division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnaman and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya observed that prima facie, as pointed out by the petitioners, five days time provided for filing...
The Calcutta High Court today held urgent hearing in two PILs moved by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and BJP's Suvendu Adhikari regarding the upcoming Panchayat elections slated to be held on July 8.
A division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnaman and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya observed that prima facie, as pointed out by the petitioners, five days time provided for filing nomination papers is inadequate and asked the State Election Commission to reconsider the same.
“Prima facie, we are of the view that the time limit fixed in the notification is inadequate. The notification has been uploaded/published today i.e. on 9th June, 2023 and filing of nominations would start from 11 AM today. This, in our view, would appear to be hurrying up the process which needs to be reconsidered by the State Election Commission.”
It thus directed the Commission to fix a reasonable time period since all three-levels of Panchayat elections were concluding in August 2023 and since the candidates were expected to mandatorily file their nomination in physical form.
Petitioners have urged that time prescribed for filing nomination papers be at least twelve days.
The petitioners have also sought deployment of central forces in the State from the date of filing nomination till the declaration of results. They also seek appointment of a special observer for the Elections, installation of CCTV cameras at polling stations and the prohibition of contractual workers from being assigned election duty, along with the imposition of an order prohibiting public gatherings under Section 144 CrPC around the polling booths were also made by the petitioners.
According to the Bench, the petitioners do not seek to stall the election process, but instead wish to ensure that the process conducted is free and fair. Therefore, the Bench took it upon themselves to ensure that the Court can facilitate the conduct of free and fair elections and that the same can be ensured in a peaceful manner, till and even after the declaration of the results.
“the Court is able to decipher that the object of the writ petitions is not to stall the elections nor interdict the election process. This is presumably because the petitioners are aware of the legal position in this regard. The endeavour of the petitioners appears to be to ensure free and fair election. Therefore, the Court is required to consider as to how best the same can be ensured so that not only the nominations are filed in a peaceful manner, the election is also conducted and results are declared in a fair and peaceful manner.”
While dealing with the apprehensions of the petitioners regarding their safety in the nomination process, the Bench opined:
“It is not clear as to what is the apprehension in the minds of the prospective candidates or that of the petitioners. It is said that past instances do not give them confidence to file their nominations before the concerned Block Development Officer of the Panchayat. This issue can also be examined by the State Election Commission. So far as ensuring free and fair polls, it goes without saying that right from the stage of filing of nomination till the counting of votes and publishing results the entire process should be videographed and the said video footages have to be protected and preserved and the duty lies with the State Election Commission in this regard.”
With these observations, the Court directed the State Election Commission to take note of all the concerns expressed in instant Writ Petitions and file their response as a report before the Court on 12th June 2023.
Mr Kalyan Bandhyopadhyay, Senior Advocate, appearing for the State of West Bengal questioned the maintainability of the instant writ petition and the Court took note of the same to adjudicate on at a later stage.
Coram: Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnaman and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya
Case title: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury Vs The West Bengal State Election Commission And Ors. WPA(P)/286/2023 with Suvendu Adhikari And Anr. Vs State Of West Bengal And Ors. WPA(P)/287/2023
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