Calcutta High Court Halts Panchayat Elections In West Bengal

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Calcutta high court on Wednesday made an unprecedented move when it passed an order staying panchayat elections in West Bengal. This move comes after certain political parties in opposition raised the issue that they were not able to file nomination for upcoming panchayat elections. They could not do so because of some confusion in the last date for filing of nomination by state election commission.

Facts

Filling of nomination for Panchayat Election began on 2nd April and was supposed to finish on 9th April. A group of political parties alleged that ruling party is not allowing them to file their nomination documents and have unleashed a wave of terror on their candidates contesting elections. In response to this State Election Commission by way of notification released on the evening of 9th April extended the last date of nomination by 1 day. Same notification was pulled down by State Election Commission when Trinamool Congress filed a petition against the above-mentioned notification in Calcutta High Court. This led to BJP filling a petition in both high court and Supreme Court.

The decision of the case

Hon’ble Justice Subrata Talukdar of the Calcutta High Court passed an order stopping the panchayat election process from moving ahead and the State Election Commission was asked to submit a detailed status report on the poll process, which shall include data about the number of nominations filed and percentage of nominations rejected, amongst other information.  Furthermore, Court set 16th April as the next date of hearing for listening to the pleas challenging the State Election Commission’s decision to withdraw notification dated 9th April. On 10th April Justice Talukdar had stayed the withdrawal of State Election Commission’s April 9 notification instructing the Commission to consider it as kept in abeyance. Supreme Court of India on Wednesday had instructed BJP to go to Calcutta High Court for the solution to its problem regarding the last date for filing of nominations. Conduct of BJP moving to both High Court and Supreme Court on similar pleas amounts to forum hopping. Moreover, a fine of rupees 5 lakh was also imposed on the BJP for misrepresentation by the court. Congress and CPM had also rushed to High Court challenging State Election Commission’s decision.

The last date for withdrawal of candidature is 16 April and elections are scheduled to take place on 1st, 3rd and 5th May.

Learning of the case

From this case, we learn that Courts in India have the power to interfere in the election process to ensure that elections are held in a free and fair manner.

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