Bengal panchayat poll nomination extended by a day, voting dates may change

Nellie Chapman
April 20, 2018

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.

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 court asked the election commission to discuss the new date with the state before announcing it.

He explained that the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003, specified that candidates must get at least 14 days for campaign after the date for withdrawal of nominations. Justice Subrata Talukdar also lifted the stay on the election process.

Reacting to the verdict, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was in favour of rural polls being conducted at the earliest and in a peaceful manner."We did not go to court and delay the election process".

Trinamool Congress claimed that the High Court has accepted their arguments and demands. "Let us see what step the SEC takes next".

Apart from the BJP, the CPI (M), PDS and the Congress too have moved the high court separately challenging the SEC's decision.

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The matter since then has moved to a division bench of the high court, which shifted the case back to the single-judge bench of Justice Talukdar.

However, SEC will have to announce a new schedule, following Friday's order.

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.

However, ruling TMC stated that the ruling foiled Opposition's attempts to stall the election process and also exposed the "double-face" of Congress. He cited two letters - one by the state government and the other by Trinamool Congress vice-president Kalyan Banerjee - that pointed out legal infirmities in the previous notification.

The CPI (M) was represented by Bikash Bhattacharya who is also a senior advocate, while the commission was represented in the court by its secretary Nilanjan Shandilya.

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