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Bengal Panchayat Polls: SC Sets Aside Calcutta HC Order Asking Poll Panel to Accept Emailed Nominations

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra took note of the fact that almost 17,000 candidates have won the panchayat polls unopposed and dubbed it "worrying", while directing the State Election Commission (SEC) not to declare them as winners.

PTI

Updated:May 10, 2018, 7:01 PM IST
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Bengal Panchayat Polls: SC Sets Aside Calcutta HC Order Asking Poll Panel to Accept Emailed Nominations
File photo of Supreme Court.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Calcutta High Court order asking the West Bengal State Election Commission to accept nomination papers filed through e-mail for contesting the panchayat elections in the state.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra took note of the fact that almost 17,000 candidates have won the panchayat polls unopposed and dubbed it "worrying", while directing the State Election Commission (SEC) not to declare them as winners.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, directed the state poll panel to ensure "free and fair" panchayat elections on May 14 in the state.

The apex court said the high court's direction and the fact that 34 per cent of the candidates have won unopposed, is "worrying".

On May 8, the high court had directed the SEC to accept the nominations of those candidates named by CPI(M) who had filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time before 3 pm on April 23.

Senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for one of the parties, today said that 17,000, which is almost 34 per cent of the total panchayat seats, have been won unopposed by candidates of one party and the election process was not being conducted properly.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the SEC, said the issue before the apex court did not pertain to candidates winning the polls unopposed, rather it was about a Calcutta HC order asking the poll panel to accept the nominations through e-mail.

Dwivedi said under the law, the returning officers are required to scrutinise the nomination papers after the candidates file the documents before them, as he termed the high court order as "absurd".

The counsel said the high court had read the Information Technology Act into the Representation of People Act.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on July 3.

The SEC on Thursday moved the apex court challenging the Calcutta HC order directing it to accept the nominations of candidates who have filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time for the panchayat elections.

The state poll panel has sought a stay of the operation of May 8 order, saying it would suffer "irreparable loss and injury".

Anticipating the SEC's move, the state's main opposition CPI(M) and BJP filed caveat before the top court saying no ex-parte orders should be passed.

Caveat is a legal notice to a court or public officer that certain actions may not be taken without informing the person who gave the notice.

The CPI(M) has claimed that many of its candidates were prevented from filing nominations by the state's ruling Trinamool Congress.

The SEC petition arrays CPI(M) as a respondent, besides the state government, the ruling Trinamool Congress, state panchayat secretary and others.

Passing the order, the HC had observed that the poll process itself involved participation and to shut out an intending bona fide candidate from participating in it, thwarted the very basic democratic principles on which it stood.

The court had said that though the filing of nominations through e-mail was not a recognised procedure under the West Bengal Panchayat Act of 2003, but in a situation where allegations of obstructing candidates from filing nominations had surfaced and had also been noted by the SEC, it should have allowed the filing of papers through e-mail.

The SEC, being a constitutional body, had to act "fairly, transparently and independently" to advance the democratic principles by allowing the intending candidates to contest, the high court said.

The CPI(M) had submitted a list of over 800 intending candidates, claiming they were prevented from filing nominations at the designated offices and had hence sent their documents to the SEC through e-mail.

The SEC had said it had received 340 complaints on the last day of filing of nominations, of which 25 were sent through e-mail.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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