High Court asks SEC to announce fresh date for Panchayat polls

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The Calcutta High Court today quashed the State Election Commission's order cancelling the notification for extension of deadline for filing nomination for panchayat polls in West Bengal and directed it to allow nominations by issuing a fresh notification.

The parties were also aggrieved with the SEC after the poll panel on April 10 withdrew its order issued on April 9 night extending the filing of nominations by a day.

This means that the date for the panchayat election is likely to change since there has to be a gap of 21 days between the last date of nomination and the first day of polling.

The BJP moved the high court challenging the withdrawal and Justice Talukdar stayed the election process on April 12.

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The BJP, along with the CPI (M) and Congress, had earlier moved the Supreme Court seeking deployment of central forces for the conduct of panchayat polls, accusing the state police of "acting on behest of the TMC government".

The notification, however, was withdrawn by the SEC on April 10 morning following objections by the state government and the ruling Trinamool Congress.

It directed that all candidates, who could not file nominations before the given time, could file nominations and take part in the polls.

In his 35-page order, the judge said the commission would then reschedule the other dates for the election process as per the rules and conduct the polls. The judiciary took a bold step.

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"Even if any aggrieved party does not move the higher court to challenge Friday's verdict, it is impossible for the commission to stick to the earlier schedule as too much time has been lost", said the lawyer. "BJP and CPI-M tried to delay the polling process".

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury claimed the State poll panel's failure has been exposed. They had claimed that the court could not interfere once the poll schedule is announced.

Representing the ruling TMC, its vice-president Kalyan Banerjee told the court during pleadings that under Article 243 (O) of the Constitution, no panchayat election shall be called in question except by an election petition as per law made by the legislature of that state. "People will suffer owing to this postponement", she said.

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