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HC backs SEC’s primacy in conducting rural polls

Statesman News Service |

statesman news service
KOLKATA, 13 JUNE: A Division Bench of Calcutta High Court today upheld the supremacy of the State Election Commission in the holding of the panchayat elections in the state, as contained in in Article 243 K of the Constitution of India,
The Division Bench of Mr Arun Mishra, Chief Justice and Mr Justice Joymalya Bagchi, in a five-page order today, said "superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the panchayat should be vested in the State Election Commission".
There can be no controversy that primacy in such matters vests in the commission, it was held. However, exercise of such powers in an arbitary,  whimsical and capricious way or making unreasonable demand are subject to judicial review, the court held.
The quantum of security forces has to be worked out by the commission on the basis of the court’s order. It is the state government’s obligation to make available the quantum of forces so worked out, the Bench directed.
With regard to a clarification sought by the SEC counsel relating to the portion of its 14 May order that stated: "the findings recorded by the Single Bench  on merit shall not be treated as precedent as we have not gone into the merits of the case and issues are kept open to be agitated in appropriate proceeding" the court said this is not part of the consent order.
"However, as the factual matrix as to the schedule of the election, deployment of forces had been resolved by consent which resulted in directions given by the Single Bench, we did not go into the merits of the Trial Judge’s order "
The court did not accede to the prayer of the advocate general, Bimal Chatterjee when he wanted to contest the commission’s application by filing an affidavit. The court held it had merely clarified its 14 May order and had not diluted it in any way.
Earlier, the advocate general questioned the need for seeking clarification. The agreement was in respect of deployment of personnel and not its quantum which will disturb the fabric of the polling process, it was submitted.
The state would not give consent to any variation of the order, the advocate general said. No one can challenge the primacy of the commission in the poll process, but it cannot get away with arbitary acts, he stated.
The order passed on 14 May is clear and the parties have acted on it, the advocate general submitted. Thereby, the order has reached finality, he stated.
Commission counsel, Mr Samaraditya Pal, had also sought clarification about another portion of the 14 May order that said that with regard to deployment of police personnel and other forces, norms of  2008 rural polls will be followed as agreed in consultation with the commission.
Mr Arun Mishra, Chief Justice, was closeted in his chamber in a meeting with the advocate general, Mr Chatterjee  and commission counsel, Mr Pal after the court hours.