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Calcutta High Court lambasts West Bengal Chief Secretary for acting as ‘servant’ of ruling TMC. Here is what happened

"Be that as it may, the most offensive part is the conduct of the Chief Secretary, who projected himself to be more as a servant of the political party in power than a public servant, the HC noted.

On Tuesday (September 28), the Calcutta High Court admonished the Chief Secretary of the West Bengal government for not acting as a public servant but a servant to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The Court made the scathing remarks while hearing a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) against the Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi’s request to the Election Commission to expedite the by-polls in the Bhabanipur constituency.

The PIL was filed by one Sayan Banerjee and was heard by a 2-Judge Bench of Chief Justice (Acting) Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bhardwaj. The Court noted that Dwivedi wrote to the Election Commission (EC) citing a ‘constitutional crisis’ if elections were not held in West Bengal for the Bhabanipur constituency. In a bid to convince the EC, the Chief Secretary had claimed that both the Coronavirus pandemic and the ‘flood situation’ in Kolkata was under control.

Although the Election Commission had deferred by-polls in 3 Parliamentary constituencies and 31 State Assembly constituencies, it gave in to Dwivedi’s special request to hold elections on September 30 in Bhawanipore. The petition was filed challenging that order. Though the HC dismissed the petition, it has made some scathing remarks against Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi.

Calcutta HC’s remarks on the chief secretary

The petitioner argued in Court that there was no impending ‘constitutional crisis’ even if the by-polls were not conducted. “The State Assembly consists of 293 members. The Ruling party won 213 seats. One member is not that important.

“The respondent No. 5 had lost election from Nandigram Assembly Constituency for which she had filed Election Petition in this Court, which is pending. Despite the fact that she lost in the election, she was elected as leader of the party and sworn in as the Chief Minister of the State. Merely because one person is not elected as of now will not create any constitutional crisis as any other elected member of the Assembly can be sworn in as leader of the party and consequently, the Chief Minister,” read the petition.

Observations made by the Court against West Bengal Chief Secretary

The Calcutta High Court noted that the Chief Secretary misled the Election Commission about the pandemic and flooding situation in the State so as to expedite the electoral process. “The information furnished by the Chief Secretary of the State to the Election Commission was contrary to the facts as in the State restrictions on account of COVID-19 pandemic had been extended up to September 30, 2021, vide order No. 753/IX-ISS/2M-22/2020 dated September 15, 2021,” the Court emphasised. The Judges noted that the Coronavirus situation was not under control as the State government was forced to extend restrictions on people’s movement.

They further observed, “Further the Election Commission was also misled regarding flood situation. It is known to all that there had been excessive rains in the State.” The Court held that Dwivedi had no jurisdiction to write to the Election Commission. It ruled, “Be that as it may, the most offensive part is the conduct of the Chief Secretary, who projected himself to be more as a servant of the political party in power than a public servant, whereby he stated that there would be a constitutional crisis in case election to Bhabanipur Constituency is not held from where respondent No. 5 (Mamata Banerjee) wants to contest the election.”

“What constitutional crisis the Government could face with one person losing or winning the election, was not explained. How did the Chief Secretary know that respondent No. 5 was to contest election from Bhabanipur Assembly Constituency? He was not a party spokesman or a returning officer,” the Calcutta High Court lambasted Dwivedi. The Judges refused to interfere in the proceedings of the Election Commission, who had set aside the date of September 30 to conduct the election process.

Calcutta HC’s remarks against the WB Chief Secretary

The Court concluded, “We record our strong reservation about the conduct of the Chief Secretary in writing a letter to the Election Commission stating that there would be ‘constitutional crisis’ in case by-election to the Bhabanipur Constituency is not held. He is a public servant, who is to discharge his duties in terms of provisions of law, whosoever may be in power. He is not to ensure that any particular person should come in power and in the absence there would be a ‘constitutional crisis’.

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