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Bengal SEC to decide on panchayat poll date: HC

Kolkata, May 10: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday said the West Bengal Election Commission will decide on the polling date for panchayat elections and directed the commission to ensure a free and fair election process.
Acting on a Congress petition that sought the quashing of the May 14 panchayat elections on the ground of inadequate security, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya and Justice Arijit Banerjee said it would not intervene in the election process if the State Election Commission was satisfied with the security arrangements made by the state. The court said it was not in a position to assess security for the elections, adding that the state government was liable to identify loss to life and property due to poll violence and to provide compensation in such cases.
The bench initially observed that the elections would be held on May 14, but following objections from the Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS) and other stakeholders who argued that a case on the same issue was being heard by another Division Bench of the High Court, the Judges modified the order and said the verdict would be applicable whenever the elections take place.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist has appealed to a Division Bench of Justices Biswanath Samaddar and Arindam Mukherjee to seek cancellation of the polling date on May 14. The Division Bench flayed the SEC for announcing one date for polling before holding meaningful consultations with important stakeholders on security arrangements during the polls. The court asked the SEC to explain what prompted them to change dates for rural polls from three to one. It also questioned if the election body had the issue of security in mind while announcing the fresh polling date and if there were any major changes in the state’s security arrangements. (IANS)