In an interim order of acting Chief Justice’s Division Bench of Calcutta High Court on Friday, superintendents of police (SP) of different districts of the state were directed to assist any candiate of panchayat election who complained of being obstructed while filing his/her nomination papers. The direction came following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by state Congress chief, Adhir Chowdhury which is scheduled to be heard on 20 April.
Hearing the PIL filed inter alia seeking safety of the candidates in the rural polls, the Division Bench of acting Chief Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya and Justice Arijit Banerjee directed that the PCC chief’s affidavit be filed on 16 March and State Election Commission’s reply be filed on 19 March. With the advocates continuing their staying away from court, both the petitioner and respondents appeared in person during the day.
The panchayat poll process has already started and now any interference by court in the election process would be against the provisions of Constitution, thereby raising his objection on the maintianability of the PIL, secretary, State Election Commission, Nilanjan Shandilya submitted. Stalling of the poll process has not been prayed for, the court observed.
Almost every day, reports are pouring in that Opposition candidates are being prevented from filing nomination and are being threatened with violence, Chowdhury submitted. With 50 per cent pacnhayat seats being reserved for women, how many of them would dare to submit their nominations in person at the BDO’s office againsat this backdrop, he asked.
The second phase of intimidation would start after 9 April and the third phase on polling days, the PCC chief said. The Opposition candidates would be intimadated to withdraw their nomination, it was submitted.
The PIL has no intention to stall the election process, but the notification of the commission stating the date of filing nomination begins from 2 April and ends on 9 April is under challenge, Chowdhury submitted.
This is an insufficient time span for the Oppostion to campaign especially after chief minister, Mamata Banerjee in the “guise” of administrative meetings have toured the districts earlier and sought votes for her party, it was submitted.
By fixing the first phase rural poll on 1 May, the commission has displayed lack of sensitity to twards workers and a minority community as the former celebrate the day as “workers day” while a minority community observes it as Sheb-e-Barat, the PCC chief submitted.
We seek a fresh election schedule together with deployment of central forces and central observers as the state government have released insufficient number of officials if the commission’s records are anythng to go by, it was submitted.
You have to satisfy the court that you are moving a PIL, the Division Bench observed.
After all, you are a MP and state Congress president, it was pointed.
The court directed the SEC to state in an affidavit the protection measures it suggests in the rural polls. It retierateed that it does not seek to stall the poll process.
After the commission’s secretary submitted quoting figures that there have been thousands of nominations filed in gram panchayat, panchayt samities and zila parishad, the PCC chief submitted that the figures are not factual.