17 Dec 2021 3:51 PM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Friday 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 is scheduled to be held on December 19.A Bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash...
The Calcutta High Court on Friday 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 is scheduled to be held on December 19.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bhardwaj observed,
"So far, no instance of violence has been pointed out nor along with the writ petition, any such material has been enclosed which furnishes a ground for deployment of the Central Paramilitary Forces in the forthcoming Kolkata Municipal Corporation Elections. Therefore, at this stage, we do not find sufficient material to accept the prayer."
The Bench however took into consideration the submission of the Advocate General that within six hours, the Central Paramilitary Forces can be sent to avoid any untoward incident.
"We direct the Election Commission to take an appropriate decision having due regard to the ground situation in consultation with the State authorities for deployment of Central Paramilitary Forces, in case, if the need so arises, to ensure free and fearless elections", the Bench observed further.
The Court further observed that although no concrete incident of violence has been referred to with regards to the upcoming elections, the appellants have raised an important issue for taking up adequate measures so that voters come out fearlessly to vote in the wake of the past incidents of post-poll violence after the State Assembly Elections.
"It cannot be disputed that free and fair election is the backbone of democracy. The forthcoming Kolkata Municipal Corporation Election must be held in a transparent manner in such an atmosphere where voters can vote without fear", the Bench underscored further.
The Bench further referred to the communication dated December 11, 2021 issued by the Joint Commissioner of Police, Lalbazar, Kolkata in respect of the scale of deployment of police personnel for the upcoming elections. In this regard, the Bench observed that deployment of police personnel must be strengthened and accordingly remarked,
"Having examined the same, we find that the State authorities and the Election Commission should reconsider the same. Having regard to the fact that the deployment is to be done not only for preventing violence but for also building confidence in the voters in respect of their safety, we are of the opinion that deployment in polling booth should be strengthened."
Furthermore, the State Election Commission was also directed to hold a meeting without any delay to chalk out a detailed plan for confidence building in the voters and to implement it with 'full seriousness'.
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha on Thursday had declined the plea to deploy central forces for the upcoming municipal elections and had accordingly observed,
"This Court is, therefore, of the view that the assurances of the learned Advocate General, are sufficient in the light of the views of the State Election Commission. Since the State Election Commission does not see the requirement of deployment of Central Forces, this Court is not inclined to accede to the prayer of the petitioner on that score."
The petitioners who are contesting candidates in the upcoming Kolkata Municipal elections had contended before the Court that they had addressed complaints to the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata on November 30 and December 1, 2021. However, it was argued that their complaints were not responded to. Furthermore, the petitioners had also made representations to the State Election Commission and the Governor which were also placed on record. Thereafter, the instant plea had been filed before the Single Bench.
In the impugned order the Court had noted that a communication from the Commissioner indicates that one police constable duly armed have been provided to each of the four petitioners. It was further directed that the Commissioner shall forthwith attend to any other complaints from other complainants and based on the threat perception ensure that appropriate security measures are undertaken. All steps must be taken to facilitate the exercise of franchise by citizens and free, fair, and peaceful Elections are held, the Court had underscored further.
Justice Mantha had also taken on record a report filed by the advocate Ratnanko Banerji appearing on behalf of the State Election Commission wherein it was stated that the Commission had held a meeting on November 13, 2021 with the Chief Secretary, ACS Home, DGP and ADG (LW) to discuss security arrangements for the upcoming elections. Furthermore, the Commissioner had addressed a letter to the Chief Secretary to ensure that adequate security arrangements are undertaken so as to ensure a free and fair election.
Accordingly, Justice Mantha had ruled,
"The steps taken and the views of the State Election Commission as set out hereinabove are clear and explicit. There is no need for Central Forces in the Elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to be held on Sunday"
The Supreme Court on Monday had 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.
Also Read: Calcutta High Court Reserves Judgment In BJP's Plea Challenging Single Bench Order Declining Plea To Deploy Central Forces For Kolkata Municipal Elections
Case Title: Bhartiya Janta Party v. State of West Bengal
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