Justice Subrata Talukdar of Calcutta High Court on Friday quashed the State Election Commission’s (SEC) order cancelling the notification for extension of deadline for filing nomination for panchayat polls in the state and directed it to allow nominations by issuing a fresh notification.
The petitions filed by the BJP, CPI(M) and other Opposition parties, challenging the cancellation of notification are maintainable, it was held and the SEC was directed to issue fresh notification extending the date for filing nominations.
The court directed the commission to reschedule the dates for panchayat election process and accordingly conduct the polls. The panchayat elections in the state were scheduled to be held in three phases from 1 May to 5 May and the counting of votes was scheduled on 8 May.
The court arrived at several findings which inter alia are that the intervention by the state government in this matter are justified but the reasons for it are not so.
The state government representative had contended that the stalling of the election process is unjustified as all development work in rural areas have stopped.
The court further held that the SEC can issue a notificaiton in consultation with the state government. This was an issue which was opposed by the Opposition’s representatives during the hearing.
The court directed the costs five lakh rupees which BJP had deposited to be forwarded to Registrar General. He was directed to forward it to the SEC as part of secretarial cost.
The nomination process for the panchayat polls ended on April 9, but it was extended by a day by the SEC the same evening following a Supreme Court court order on petitions alleging that candidates backed by opposition parties were being prevented from filing nominations.
The state government and ruling All India Trinamul Congress (AITC) had objected to the extension of nomination date by the SEC, which had cited a Supreme Court direction to “allay apprehensions of intending candidates” in its notification extending the nomination process by a day.
On the morning of 10 April, the commission withdrew the notification, which referred to the Supreme Court order. The BJP again moved the Supreme Court on 11 April and was directed to approach the Calcutta High Court with its grievances over the deadline for filing nominations.
The BJP moved the Calcutta High Court challenging the withdrawal. Justice Talukdar stayed the election process on 12 April.
Apart from the BJP, the CPI(M), Congress and PDS have moved the High Court separately challenging the SEC’s decision.