GET Stock QuotesNews18 APP
News18 English
»
4-min read

Bengal Panchayat Polls: A Vacillating State Election Commission Now In Eye of The Storm

Alleged widespread intimidation and violence by the ruling Trinamool Congress dispensation leading to obstruction and prevention of filing of nomination papers of prospective candidates formed the basis of that petition.

Sougata Mukhopadhyay | CNN-News18

Updated:April 10, 2018, 5:06 PM IST
facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp
Bengal Panchayat Polls: A Vacillating State Election Commission Now In Eye of The Storm
Members of BJP and Left protesting outside West Bengal State Election Commission on April 10, 2018.
Loading...
Kolkata: By issuing two contradictory orders inside 12 hours, the latter resulting in the recall and rescinding of the former, the West Bengal State Election Commission seems to have only added to the already existing environment of confusion and distrust in the murky and bloody run-up to the state’s rural polls.

Citing legal hurdles, the Commission issued a fresh order on Tuesday morning to recall the order for extension of nomination deadline for panchayat polls by a day, which it had issued the previous evening, minutes before that earlier order was supposed to take effect.

Ironically, the Commission was reported to have taken “extensive legal opinions” prior to its issuing the late Monday evening order that came in the wake of a Supreme Court order passed earlier in the day disposing a BJP petition that sought extension of nomination deadline and deployment of central paramilitary troops to man the elections.

Alleged widespread intimidation and violence by the ruling Trinamool Congress dispensation leading to obstruction and prevention of filing of nomination papers of prospective candidates formed the basis of that petition.

West bengal BJP

BJP protest2

BJP protest 3

While the Apex court chose not to interfere in the matter since the poll process had already been set in motion, it observed that “the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003 has empowered the state election commissioner to pass appropriate orders in relation to any grievance… with regard to any matter relating to and arising out of the election and election process”.

The court directed the aggrieved political parties and candidates to approach the SEC who would “ensure disposal of any such grievance so made by the party concerned strictly in accordance with law forthwith.”

“We hope and trust that in order to ensure fair and free election to the panchayats, the State Election Commission shall take appropriate steps to remove the apprehensions of the petitioner and/or intending candidates and they may not be deprived of their chance to contest the panchayat elections,” the Supreme Court observed.

It was in interpretation of this order and in the wake of opposition parties turning up with hundreds of nomination papers before the Commission’s office in Kolkata demanding they be accepted there since the parties are unable to file nominations in the districts that the commission issued its Monday evening order to extend nomination deadline from 11 am to 3 pm on Tuesday. The order was passed nearly seven hours after the official deadline had passed on Monday.

In that order (No 982-SEC/IE-88/2017), AK Singh, the chief election commissioner observed “information has been received through complaints, deputations etc that intending candidates and proposers are being obstructed or prevented from making nomination; and …. Many intending candidates could not file their nomination papers due to the above disruption.”

“Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has directed the Commission… to consider the grievance once made by any party and/or candidate as the case may be so that the intending candidates may not be deprived of their chance to contest the panchayat elections,” Singh stated in his order as justification for his deadline extension decision.

Less than 12 hours later, Singh took a U-turn to recall that order and issued a fresh order (No. 984- SEC/IE-88/2017) which stated “it appears there was no specific direction by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for extension of the nomination date.”

Interestingly, Singh took recourse to the same law to nullify himself which the Supreme Court had referred to as the Act which “empowered the SEC to issue appropriate orders”. Singh made two points to justify the recall.

First, citing section 46(2) of the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003, the commissioner stated that the deadline extension order should have been made along with the same order which allowed nominations to be received at the SDO offices besides the BDO offices and not subsequently.

Second, the extension should have been made before the expiry of the original deadline and not after.

In effect, Singh admitted that his Monday evening order was bad in law.

A close reading of the aforesaid section of the said Act gives the impression that Singh may just have made one among multiple interpretations of the law. No wonder the BJP moved both Calcutta High High court and the Supreme Court challenging the Commission and has managed to obtain an interim stay on that order from the former.

The Trinamool Congress, however, was firm in its interpretation of the law. “The Supreme Court direction was clear. It asked the Commission to act in accordance with law and not go beyond it. Here the law is clear. The Commission cannot issue two separate orders for accepting nominations at SDO offices and extend deadline,” said Kalyan Banerjee, party MP and advocate who appeared at Supreme Court to take on the BJP on Monday.

“Also, can you revive a person after he is dead already? The extension should have been done before the expiry of deadline,” Banerjee argued.

The dramatic developments of the past two days have, nonetheless, resulted in one discernable change in the behaviour of the opposition parties in Bengal: they have shifted the opposition’s ire from the Trinamool Congress to a Constitutional body called the State Election Commission.

And that’s not good news.
| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
Read full article
Loading...
Next Story
Next Story

Also Watch

facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp

Live TV

Loading...
Loading...