“Victory of the Constitution and not an individual win or loss for anyone. We are happy that the SEC&’s primacy has once again been upheld by the Supreme Court.” ~ SEC secretary Tapas Ray
"It&’s a victory for the state government as ultimately the panchayat poll will be held which the state election commissioner wanted to stop.” ~ Trinamul Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee
“We have now rescheduled the election from 11 July to 25 July to be held in five phases. All other consequential notifications are to be done by the concerned authorities as per the order.” ~ Supreme Court Division Bench
statesman news service
NEW DELHI/KOLKATA, 28 JUNE: Setting at rest all doubts about whether panchayat polls will be held on time, the Supreme Court today ordered rescheduling the poll into five phases and deployment of both state and Central forces for conducting the poll.
The first phase will be held on 11 July, in place of 2 July as had earlier been announced. The Division Bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi directed the election be held on 11, 15, 19, 22 and 25 July.
The apex court further directed the state government to provide on an average 35,000 security personnel for each phase of the election; the balance of the requirement ranging from 2,000 to 25,000 in different phases will be met by Central forces.
“We have now rescheduled the election from 11 to 25 July, to be held in five phases,” the Bench said, adding, “all other consequential notifications are to be done by the concerned authorities as per the order”.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by the SEC, which had approached the apex court on 26 June seeking its direction to the state and the Centre on providing adequate security personnel for the election.
The apex court asked the SEC counsel whether it would agree to a five-phase poll and the latter gave the dates. The state government counsel then accepted the proposal.
The districts to be covered in each phase have been accordingly revised. As per the new schedule, polls will be held in Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore on 11 July; in East Midnapore, Hooghly and Burdwan on 15 July; in North and South 24-Parganas and Howrah on 19 July; in Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and Birbhum on 22 July and in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, North and South Dinajpur on 25 July.
The apex court asked the two sides to discuss among themselves the quantum of forces to be deployed for conducting free and fair polls and then return to the court later in the afternoon.
Accordingly, the formula for deployment of forces was arrived at after due consultation.
SEC secretary Tapas Ray termed the court verdict as “victory of the Constitution and not an individual win or loss for anyone”.
“We are happy that the SEC’s primacy has once again been upheld by the Supreme Court,” he said. The poll panel would soon hold a meeting with the state government to notify the new poll dates.
The CPI-M and the Congress hailed the verdict and squarely blamed the state government for “unnecessarily creating the mess”. PCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya said the ruling party was scared to face the rural people. Trinamul Congress MP Mr Kalyan Banerjee said: “It’s a victory for the state government as ultimately the panchayat poll will be held, which the state election commissioner wanted to stop.”
Union Home Secretary designate Anil Goswami, who met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today, said “No comment” when reporters questioned him about discussions on the availability of Central forces for the state panchayat polls.
Meanwhile, state election commissioner Mira Pande’s office received a purported Maoist letter threatening to kill her during the day. The letter, written in Bengali by one identifying himself as Dibakar Dutta, was posted in Bankura.
“The letter reached us this morning; it states that the writer of the letter, a Maoist, was after the commissioner and a Maoist squad is already in Kolkata to eliminate her. We have immediately forwarded the letter to the state home secretary for necessary action,” SEC secretary Tapas Ray said. Home secretary Basudeb Banerjee said the police commissioner had been informed of the matter.