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High Court orders fresh dates for Bengal panchayat polls

High Court orders fresh dates for Bengal panchayat polls

In a jolt to the State Election Commission (SEC), West Bengal government and the Trinamool Congress the Calcutta High Court directed the SEC to issue a fresh notification extending the day for nomination submission by a day and reschedule the Panchayat polls, in consultation with the state government.

Bench of Justice Subrata Talukder also directed the election commission to announce fresh dates to conduct panchayat election in the state.

Since there has to be a gap of 21 days between the last date of nomination and the first day of polling, the dates of voting are likely to change if the court's order is not challenged. The judge stayed the order of withdrawal and stalled the election process.

"What we now need to see is whether the court cancels the entire election process and orders the commission to declare polls afresh", he said.

The BJP, along with the CPI (M) and Congress, had earlier moved the Supreme Court seeking deployment of central forces for the conduct of panchayat polls, accusing the state police of "acting on behest of the TMC government".

However, the top court transferred the case to the Calcutta High Court.

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In addition, Justice Talukdar advised the WBSEC to add one day extra to the time frame for filing of nomination. "It is a moral defeat for the Trinamool Congress and exposed the disability of the SEC, which failed to uphold its credibility by playing in the hands of the state government".

Questioning the maintainability of the petitions, the SEC and the TMC had moved a division bench of the high court, but it sent the matter back to the bench of Justice Talukdar.

A source in the Trinamul Congress pointed out that if the election process couldn't be completed by May 15 - the original schedule - the polls could be deferred till the second half of June.

The SEC had said it withdrew the April 9 notification following a letter of legal advice by Additional Chief Secretary Saurabh Kumar Das and Trinamool Vice President Kalyan Banerjee that the notification for extension was a violation of Panchayat act's section 46 (2). They claimed that supporters of the ruling party tried to prevent their candidates from filing nominations.

A senior lawyer himself, Banerjee appeared in-person as the party vice-president, owing to an ongoing ceasework at the high court.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.