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Kolkata Municipal Polls : BJP Seeks Preservation Of CCTV Visuals Of Alleged Violence; Calcutta HC Reserves Orders

Aaratrika Bhaumik
23 Dec 2021 11:45 AM GMT
Kolkata Municipal Polls : BJP Seeks Preservation Of CCTV Visuals Of Alleged Violence; Calcutta HC Reserves Orders
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The Calcutta High Court on Thursday took on record compliance reports filed by the State government as well as the State Election Commission pursuant to the directions of the Court in its order dated December 17, 2021. The Court had last week dismissed an appeal moved by the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) against a Single Bench order of the High Court wherein BJP's plea seeking deployment...

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday took on record compliance reports filed by the State government as well as the State Election Commission pursuant to the directions of the Court in its order dated December 17, 2021. The Court had last week dismissed an appeal moved by the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) against a Single Bench order of the High Court wherein BJP's plea seeking deployment of Central Forces for the upcoming Kolkata Municipal Elections had been declined. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation election was held on December 19. 

The counsel appearing for the State Election Commission informed the Bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bhardwaj that all the steps taken by the Commission in order to conduct free and safe elections have been mentioned in the report filed. He further apprised the Bench that the State Election Commission had also addressed all the complaints filed by contesting parties and other aggrieved persons. Furthermore, it was also submitted that in compliance with the Court's directions, area domination and route march were also conducted in a planned and systematic manner.

On the other hand, the counsel appearing for the BJP submitted, "We are intending to take exception to the report filed". The Bench was also apprised by the BJP that large-scale violence had taken place in various municipal wards such as wards nos 36, 22, 86, 52, 7, 26, 113, 67, 18, 20, 113, 114 and 45 among others. The counsel further submitted that bombing had also taken place in a polling booth. 

As a result, it was prayed before the Court that CCTV footage of all polling booths as well as the EVM machines used should be preserved for the purpose of evidence. The Court was further implored to pass directions to ensure that diaries of polling officers, presiding officers as well as the voters' registers are properly preserved so that they can be submitted before the Court. 

Pursuant to the submissions of the parties, the Chief Justice remarked, "We will not be closing the petition, we will upload the order in a day or two on the website". He further stated that the Bench will not be assembling for the issuance of the order due to the upcoming vacation. Accordingly, the matter has been listed for further hearing on January 6.

During the proceedings, Advocate General S.N Mookherjee apprised the Court that the Election Commission in the report submitted before the Court had outlined the measures undertaken regarding the hurling of bombs at a polling booth. "This aspect has been noted, FIRs have been registered, people have been arrested", the AG submitted further. 

The Court was further informed by the Advocate General that pursuant to the Court's earlier directions, the Director-General of Police, as well as the Commissioner of Police, had filed compliance reports. The Director-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police vide order dated December 17 had been instructed to hold a meeting with the State Election Commission to chalk out a detailed plan for confidence-building in the voters and implement it with full seriousness. 

While hearing another petition in a related matter, the Bench was requested on Thursday by senior counsel Pinky Anand appearing for a BJP candidate to issue directions for the deployment of central forces while conducting elections to the remaining municipal bodies. "There is enough violence to demonstrate the requirement of central paramilitary forces", senior counsel Anand had remarked further. 

Background

Pursuant to the dismissal of the appeal filed by the BJP vide order December 17, 2021, the BJP had moved the Supreme Court on Saturday challenging the High Court's December 17 order rejecting their plea to deploy Central Forces for the conduct of free and fearless municipal elections scheduled on 19 December 2021. According to the petitioner counsel, the party had sought an urgent listing of the matter as the polls were scheduled to be held on Sunday. The petitioner had approached the Registrar Judicial and had sought urgent listing for today before the Judges at their residence.

The Supreme Court had earlier refused to entertain such a plea by the BJP seeking deployment of Central Forces for the Kolkata Municipal Elections, by asking the party to approach the Calcutta High Court for such a relief. "We cannot take decisions with respect to the requirement of Central force. High Court will be in a better position to know the situation", the bench comprising Justices L Nagesara Rao and BR Gavai of the Supreme Court had told Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, who was appearing for the BJP.

Earlier, the Bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bhardwaj on Wednesday had refused to stay the upcoming Kolkata Municipal Corporation Elections pursuant to the plea moved by BJP Sate vice-president Pratap Banerjee seeking direction to the West Bengal government and the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold municipal polls in the State in one phase. The Division Bench had also directed the State government and the State Election Commission to disclose to the Court the tentative time schedule and the minimum phases required for holding elections to the remaining municipal bodies.

Furthermore, the Division Bench on Tuesday had directed the West Bengal State Election Commission to install close circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all the main and auxiliary polling booths as also in strong room where EVMs will be kept during the upcoming Kolkata Municipal Corporation Election.

Case Title: Bhartiya Janta Party v. State of West Bengal

Also Read: WB Municipal Polls: State Election Commission Submits Election Schedule To Calcutta High Court


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