Calcutta High Court suspends all poll processes of Panchayat elections marred by large-scale violence

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday suspended all the poll processes of West Bengal’s upcoming Panchayat elections till further notice. During the hearing, Justice Subrata Talukdar also directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to furnish a comprehensive status report by Monday containing details like – total nominations filed and percentage of nominations rejected.

Justice Talukdar has conveyed that he will take a decision with regards to resuming the poll process after receiving the SEC report. The suspension of poll process include formalities like scrutiny of candidates and withdrawal of candidature.

The Panchayat polls are supposed to be held on 1st, 3rd and 5th May, for which dates of nomination filing was from 2nd to 9th April. The scrutiny took place on 11th April and time for withdrawal of candidature was from 12th to 16th April.

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The High Court has also conveyed that it will hear petitions challenging SEC’s flip flop on extending the dates for filing of nominations on 16 April (Monday). The SEC on 9 April had extended the date for nomination filing by one day, but had rescinded it later. The BJP isn’t alone in this battle, with the Congress and CPM too moving the High Court in this regard.

This High Court ruling was delivered while the court was hearing Bengal BJP’s petition, which alleges that the TMC has been used in arm twisting techniques to prevent opposition candidates from filing their nomination papers. This tactic has meant that the TMC has already won many Panchayat seats unopposed.

The suspension order has been met favourably by leaders from both BJP and the Congress. Union Minister Babul Supriyo welcomed the order and Congress state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury saluted the courts. Chowdhury also added that the court is listening to their agony at a time when the government, police and the SEC has turned a deaf ear.

The TMC though hasn’t been left happy by this decision and MP Kalyan Banerjee has claimed that they would approach the division bench in this regard.

Such a High Court order comes in the backdrop of serious violence across the state with regards to the Panchayat polls. Besides violence, the TMC establishment has been accused of openly intimidating people by carrying out armed rallies.

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