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HC extends stay on Bengal Panchayat polls process by another day

 Kolkata, April 18: The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday extended the stay on Panchayat poll process in West Bengal by one more day in view of the ongoing hearing of a case related to the polls while the argument over the role of the state poll body in conducting the election process intensified inside the courtroom. A single-judge bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar extended the stay on the poll process till Thursday morning, when the case will be heard again.

Responding to the argument of ruling Trinamool Congress’ counsel Kalyan Banerjee that court cannot interfere in an ongoing election process, Justice Talukdar said the Supreme Court had asked the State Election Commission to address the apprehensions of the petitioners or any intending candidate, and according to that the Commission had extended the nomination process by a day. However, it issued another notice to withdraw the extension within a few hours. He noted that the SEC could not consider itself to be bigger than the election process and asked Banerjee “who else would the common voters approach” in case the withdrawal of notice created a doubt or an adverse impact on their mind regarding the election process.
Banerjee, also a Trinamool Lok Sabha MP, argued that the SEC extended the time of filing nomination at 9.30 p.m. on April 9 which was way after the original deadline of 3 p.m. in the afternoon on that day and therefore that was not legal. He also said no specific reason was given by the commission for extending the nomination date. In the second half of the hearing, CPI-M counsel Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya argued that the court is bestowed with the responsibility to uphold constitutional rights and therefore it has every right to intervene in the election process when there is a question of protecting people’s rights and conducting the election in an organised manner.
The opposition parties have moved the court, accusing the Trinamool of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations for the polls ever since the process began on April 2. The parties are also aggrieved with the SEC after the poll panel withdrew its earlier order of extending the filing of nominations by a day, within a few hours of issuing the order last week. The panchayat elections were originally scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5, with the counting of votes slated on May 8. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita