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SC Shocked Over Huge Number of Uncontested Seats in West Bengal Panchayat Polls

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “Huge number of seats went uncontested during the panchayat elections in Bengal. We cannot remain oblivious to this fact. Out of 48,000 gram panchayat seats, nearly 16,000 went uncontested and this is puzzling us.”

News18

Updated:July 4, 2018, 12:05 AM IST
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SC Shocked Over Huge Number of Uncontested Seats in West Bengal Panchayat Polls
File image of WB CM Mamata Banerjee. (Photo: News18)
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Kolkata: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed shock over the fact that 'thousands and thousands' of seats in the recent West Bengal panchayat polls remained uncontested. The apex court observed that these figures showed that at the grassroot level, democracy was not working in the state.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “Huge number of seats went uncontested during the panchayat elections in Bengal. We cannot remain oblivious to this fact. Out of 48,000 gram panchayat seats, nearly 16,000 went uncontested and this is puzzling us.”

“Similar facts were observed for the posts of zilla parishads (district-level) and panchayat samitis at the villages during the panchayat polls in Bengal,” the bench observed.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the West Bengal State Election Commission to file an affidavit by Wednesday, with exact statistics about the number of seats that went uncontested in the local body elections in the state.

Elections were held in phases for 48,650 posts in Gram Panchayats, 825 posts in Zilla Parishads and 9,217 posts in Panchayat Samitis and it has been alleged that around 34 per cent seats were uncontested.

The bench questioned the decisions of the state election body and said it had first extended the time limit for filing of nomination papers and later withdrew the decision within a day.

The bench said, “It should have extended the deadline to file nomination papers. So many seats went uncontested. If no one is contesting, then there will be no litigation. But here the fact is there were litigations which means that people are aware of the fact that something amiss.”

Senior advocate PS Patwalia, appearing on behalf of Bengal BJP, provided a district-wise break-up of the uncontested seats and facts about violence in the run-up to the elections.

TMC General Secretary, Partha Chatterjee said, “The matter is sub-judice and I would not like to make any comments on this issue.”

Earlier, the apex court had stayed the Calcutta High Court order asking the state election body to accept the nomination papers filed through e-mail for panchayat elections and directed the poll panel not to declare in the gazette the names of those candidates who had won unopposed.

The bench, however, had then refused to stay the poll process observing that there were a plethora of judgements which have held that once the poll process has begun, it cannot be interfered into by any court.

The counsel for CPI(M) and the BJP had alleged that several of their candidates were not allowed to file nomination papers, which had led to about 34 per cent of the candidates belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress, winning unopposed.

The court was hearing an appeal filed by the state election panel against the High Court order asking it to accept the nomination papers filed through e-mail for the panchayat elections.

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

The SEC petition arrayed CPI(M) as a respondent, besides the state government, the ruling Trinamool Congress, state panchayat secretary and others. BJP was later allowed to be a party to the litigation.​
| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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