West Bengal panchayat polls: HC upholds supremacy of SEC

The Calcutta High Court upheld the supremacy of the State Election Commission in the holding of the Panchayat Elections in West Bengal.

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday upheld the supremacy of the State Election Commission in the holding of the Panchayat Elections in West Bengal, where the three-phased rural polls are scheduled to begin on July 02.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalyo Bagchi, upholding the commission`s supremacy, however, said the state can move the court if it feels affected by any decision of the commission or may feel is arbitrary.

Clarifying its May 14 order, the bench said the SEC would decide on the requirement of forces for the polls and the state would make the arrangements.

It would be the state government`s discretion as to from where it would procure the forces - from other states or central forces, it said.

The court, however, did not delete the word `consent` from the May 14 order, which was prayed for by the commission.

The SEC had sought before the bench the deletion of the word from its order on an appeal by the state government on holding of panchayat elections in the state, over which the two have been embroiled in a legal battle.

While SEC counsel Samaraditya Pal claimed there was no consent from his side, the division bench insisted the order was pronounced loud and clear and the SEC counsel had not said anything then.

Pal had, however, argued yesterday that a judgement cannot be with consent and he had not heard any such word during pronouncement of the order by the court on May 14.

The HC division bench passing the judgement on May 14 had refused to accept SEC`s plea for 800 companies of central armed police force for holding the panchayat poll in the state and directed that the state may requisition them from other states or the Centre if there was any shortfall.

The bench had directed that the panchayat election be held in three phases and the poll process be completed by July 15.

The bench, hearing an appeal by the state government against a single bench order, directed that the dates for the election should be notified by the state government in consultation with the SEC.

While the election process was started and the three- phase poll dates were announced, the SEC filed an application before the court seeking deletion of the word `consent` from the order, claiming that it had not given any such consent.

The bench, taking up the application for the hearing, asserted that the order which framed guidelines for deployment of armed forces in poll booths, was passed with consent from both SEC and the state government.