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SC questions many panchayat seats going uncontested in Bengal

IANS | New Delhi |

The Supreme court on Tuesday took a dim view of West Bengal panchayat election, saying thousands of seats going uncontested shows that democracy is not working in the state.

“It seems democracy is not working at the ground level. It is shocking that thousands of seats have gone uncontested,” said a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

Observing that over 34 per cent seats going uncontested makes it clear that part IX of the Constitution, dealing with the panchayat, was not functioning in the state, the bench directed the West Bengal State Election Commission to file an affidavit stating the number of seats that went uncontested.

The court said it would examine whether a high court in exercise of its powers under Article 226 could read the provision of Information Technology Act into the Representation of People Act.

Giving the state poll body a day’s time to file the affidavit, the court directed the next hearing on Wednesday.

Even in the last hearing of the matter on May 10, Chief Justice Misra said: “What is worrying us is both the high court order and 34 per cent candidates getting elected unopposed.”

Having expressed its concern, Chief Justice Misra had said that State Election Commission would ensure “absolute fairness” in the conduct of election.

The opposition parties have claimed that nearly 16,000 of the total 48,000 seats have gone uncontested. However, the State Election Commission official had no definite data on this.

The court observation came in the course of the hearing of a plea by the state election body challenging the Calcutta High Court’s May 8 order permitting e-nomination and reading into the Representation of People Act, 1954, the provision of the Information Technology Act.

The high court allowed e-nominations in the wake of the allegations that candidates were being intimidated and threatened with violence when they approached the election authorities for nomination papers.

The top court on May 10 stayed the operation of the Calcutta High Court order on nomination papers and directed the State Election Commission not to notify the results of the candidates who have been declared elected unopposed.