Battle for Bhabanipur on as HC refuses to stay bypoll

Bhabanipur bypolls on Sept 30 as Calcutta High Court rejects plea to stay

The court dismissed the PIL in which the language used to seek the by-poll was challenged

Mamata Banerjee and Priyanka Tibrewal. Credit: PTI/ Twitter/@impriyankabjp

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday stated said that the Bhabanipur Assembly by-election can be held as per schedule. However, it sternly criticised West Bengal Chief Secretary H K Dwivedi stating that by writing to the Election Commission (EC) that by-poll at Bhabanipur has to be held to avoid a constitutional crisis, he acted more like a servant of a political party in power than a public servant. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting from Bhabanipur.

“As the process of election was initiated with the issuance of press note dated September 4, 2021 and the polling has to be held on September 30,2021, we do not find it appropriate to interfere with the decision of the Commission to hold by-election to Bhabanipur Assembly constituency at this stage,” stated the order. The order was issued following a PIL for quashing the EC's decision to hold the by-poll based on the "misleading" submission made by the Chief Secretary.

The division bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Rajarshi Bharadwaj stated in the order that they have “strong reservation” about the conduct of the Chief Secretary for writing to EC that there would be a “constitutional crisis” if the by-poll at Bhabanipur was not held.

It further stated that regardless of who is in power, the Chief Secretary being a public servant has to discharge his duty as per law.

“He is not to ensure that any particular person should come in power and in the absence there would be ‘constitutional crisis’” stated the order.

The Division Bench pointed out that the Chief Secretary in his letter to the EC did not explain what “constitutional crisis” the Government could face with one person winning or losing an election. It asked how the Chief Secretary knew that the “respondent No 5” was going to contest the by-poll in Bhabanipur Assembly constituency.

“He was not a party spokesman or a returning officer,” the Division Bench stated in it’s order.

Referring to the Chief Secretary’s letter to the EC wherein he stated that the Covid-19 situation in the state was under control, the Division Bench further stated that the information furnished to the EC by the Chief Secretary was “contrary to facts” as restrictions regarding the pandemic has been extended in the state up to September 30.

It further stated that the EC was “misled” regarding the flood situation in the state as there had been excessive rain.

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