WB panchayat polls: SC to pass order on BJP's plea on Apr 9

WB panchayat polls: SC to pass order on BJP's plea on Apr 9

The Supreme Court on Friday said it will pass orders on April 9 on the BJP West Bengal unit's plea claiming that its candidates are not being allowed to file their nomination papers for the panchayat polls next month.

In its plea, the BJP sought an extension of the last date of nomination, which is April 9, and online availability of nomination papers.

The party also sought police protection for its candidates and asked for deployment of central paramilitary forces to maintain law and order so the panchayat polls are conducted smoothly.

"We are reserving verdict for April 9," a bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre said.

The panchayat elections are scheduled to be held on May 1, 3, and 5. The votes will be counted on May 8.

According to the notification, the last date of filing nominations is April 9 and the last date of scrutiny of the nominations April 11.

During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the West Bengal unit of the BJP, said "democracy is being murdered" in the state as candidates are not being allowed to file their nomination papers and there is large-scale violence.

Rohatgi informed the court that Pradesh Congress Committee president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had moved the Calcutta High Court with the same plea as Congress candidates are also not being allowed to file their nomination papers.

"Both the BJP and the Congress, which are arch-rivals, are aggrieved with the nomination papers not being allowed to be filled up. It is a rare case where both the BJP and the Congress are on the same page," Rohatgi said.

He said the Union of India should be directed to deploy paramilitary forces in the state in view of large-scale violence.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the central government could deploy paramilitary forces if there was a requisition from the State Election Commission or a direction from the court.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal, said the BJP's petition was based on a wrong premise as there are several districts in which BJP candidates have filed more nomination papers than the ruling Trinamool Congress.

He said the BJP should have first approached the State Election Commission, which should have approached the Calcutta High Court.

"There is a triple whammy in BJP's petition. First, they cannot directly come to the Supreme Court, they should have first moved the State Election Commission, and thirdly they should have made some specific averments of nomination papers not being allowed in a particular district," Singhvi said.

The bench, after hearing the arguments, said it will pass orders.

The apex court had on Thursday agreed to hear the matter on Friday, considering the submission of Aishwarya Bhati, the counsel for BJP state general secretary Pratap Banerjee, that the last day for filing nominations was April 9.

Aishwarya had also referred to the recent murder of a Dalit leader in the state and accused the Trinamool Congress government in the state of fomenting trouble.

The plea sought issuance of nomination forms to BJP candidates so they could file their papers.

It claimed that block development officers, appointed assistant panchayat electoral registration officers by the West Bengal State Election Commission, are refusing to give nomination forms to BJP candidates.

The West Bengal State Election Commission is the authority tasked with superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to panchayats and municipalities.

"... the entire election process is being reduced to a farce. In addition to refusal of nomination forms, the ruling party in state of West Bengal has unleashed violence against the candidates of the petitioner (BJP) and the candidates of the petitioner along with their families are being threatened and dissuaded from contesting the panchayat elections on the symbol of the petitioner," the plea said.

The state poll panel has abrogated its responsibility and is behaving like a mute spectator without taking any action in this regard, it claimed.

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