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Calcutta HC responds to BJP’s challenge of Election Process to be held for Howrah Municipal Corporation

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A writ petition was filed by the Bharatiya Janta Party to challenge the Election process to be held to the Howrah Municipal Corporation. The party challenged the publication of draft order on 20th December 2019 in terms of Rule 3 and 4 of the West Bengal Municipal Elections (Reservation of Seats) Rules, 1994. The aforementioned Rules lay down the procedure of determining the total number of reserved seats as well as the method of identifying the words to be included in the SC/ST and women category.

According to the Petitioner, the District Election Officer (DEO), Howrah did not consider the objection filed by the party on 2nd January 2020 for reducing the total number of constituencies in the Howrah-Bally civic jurisdiction from 85 to 66 seats. The petitioner claims that the election areas of the constituencies were constructed to favour the ruling party.

The Writ Petition was heard on the 28th January 2020 by the Honorable Justice Rajasekhar Mantha.

Arguments of the Learned Counsel

The learned Counsel for the West Bengal State Election Commission has made the following arguments;

  1. The learned counsel argues that the Election Commission relies on Rule 4(3) of the aforementioned West Bengal Municipal Elections (Reservation of Seats) Rules which states that the Commission is only required to consider the objection and dispose of them accordingly. They also submitted the photocopy of the order that shows that appropriate consideration was effected by the Election Commission to be shared with the Counsel for the Petitioner.
  2. The Election Commission also relies on the SC Judgement in the case State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.-Vs.-P.S.S Samity in 1995. The judgement stated the following aspects to consider;
  3. an examination of the Sections 8 (Readjustment of Number of Seats) and Section 9 (Delimitation of Seats) of the Delimitation Commission Act cannot be subjected to scrutiny by any court of the law.
  4. If the orders under the Sections 8 and 9 were not treated as final then any voter could hold up the election indefinitely by questioning the delimitation of the constituencies Court by Court
  5. A similar judgement was upheld by the Calcutta High Court in the case of Sk. Maison & Ors.-Vs.-The State of West Bengal & Ors. in 2009. The Judgement expressly states that “the High Court…must resist the temptation of interfering with an election at the intermediary stage of granting relief.” 
  6. The learned counsel also cited Article 243 (z)(g) of the Constitution of India which bars interference by courts in electoral matters. Also, any grievance related to the Election process should be challenged by filing an Election Petition before the District Judge (prescribed authority) in this case.

The learned counsel on behalf of the petitioner submitted that the order handed over in the Court by the Election Commission concerning the objection filed on 2nd January 2020 was not shared before this day.

The Court’s Order

After reviewing the petition and the arguments on the behalf of the Election Commission, the Court is of the view that the petitioner will be able to find their remedy “after the Election process is completed before the District Judge under the provisions of the West Bengal Municipal Elections Act, 1994.” 

The Court has ordered the Election Commission to file an affidavit-in-opposition within 2 weeks from the date and fixed the case for hearing after three weeks.

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