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SC refuses to entertain plea of WB BJP leaders seeking deployment of central forces in civic polls

SC refuses to entertain plea of WB BJP leaders seeking deployment of central forces in civic polls
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea of BJP leaders against the Calcutta High Court directing the State Election Commissioner to examine the ground situation in each of the 108 West Bengal municipalities going to polls on February 27, and take a decision on deployment of central paramilitary forces.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant told senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for BJP leaders Mousumi Roy and Pratap Banerjee, Sorry. We are not inclined to entertain this petition .

Patwalia said that wide scale violence and irregularities were reported during previous phases of municipal elections and deployment of central forces will help in ensuring free and fair elections.

He said the high court had erred in asking the State Election Commissioner to examine the ground situation and take a call on deployment of central forces.

Patwalia further contended that as the hearing is progressing in the top court, he has received a communication saying that some additional forces will be deployed during the polls.

We have no problem with additional deployment of security forces but nowhere is it said that central forces will be deployed. What is wrong in deployment of Central forces, he said.

They are also distributing title deeds to the electors under a scheme during the model code of conduct and State Election Commissioner has allowed it, Patwalia said, adding that 52,000 people have been given such deeds which cannot be allowed.

He said, Election will be held in Contai municipality which is situated in Nandigram district where Chief Minister lost the election. Deployment of central forces will help us in safeguarding our ballot boxes .

He referred to the top court's order passed during Tripura civil polls where directions were issued for deployment of central forces.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that like in Tripura civic polls, it was asked on deployment of forces and the government is making it clear that it has no objection in deployment of central forces in WB civic polls.

The bench, however, did not agree with the submissions of Patwalia and Mehta and dismissed the plea.

On Thursday, the BJP leaders had sought urgent listing of the plea saying that the Calcutta High Court had put the ball in SEC's court.

The Calcutta High Court had on Wednesday said if the commissioner decides against deploying paramilitary forces, then he will be personally liable to ensure that violence-free and fair elections take place.

Directing the Commissioner to collect information on conditions prevailing in municipalities where polls are scheduled, the high court had asked him to hold a joint meeting with the home secretary and the DGP within 24 hours.

It had asked the commissioner to take a decision in writing "by mentioning the relevant circumstances in support of his decision to deploy/not to deploy the paramilitary forces," in each of the 108 municipalities.

Praying for direction to the SEC to deploy paramilitary forces for the February 27 polls, the petitioners before the high court had alleged that a state of terror is prevailing in various areas, and in almost 10 per cent of the municipalities going for polls, ruling Trinamool Congress candidates have won uncontested as nominations were not allowed to be filed by other contestants.

Opposing the plea, the State Election Commission (SEC) counsel had submitted before the court that its earlier direction of February 10 was complied with and assessment of ground situation to deploy paramilitary forces for the Bidhannagar elections, as had been prayed for by the petitioner, was done and no need for the same was found.

He had claimed that only stray incidents of violence had taken place during elections to four municipal corporations earlier this month and had also denied allegations of candidates being illegally prevented from filing nomination forms.

The petitioners had also claimed that the SEC was acting in a partisan manner and that despite announcement of the poll dates, acting against the Model Code of Conduct, the state government was undertaking new schemes to woo voters.

The high court had also asked the SEC to appoint observers for the municipal elections.

"Having regard to the nature of allegations which have been made in this petition, we are of the opinion that the Election Commission should appoint impartial officers of IAS cadre as observers," it had directed.

The court had further directed the SEC to take steps to install CCTV cameras at conspicuous spots in all the main and ancillary booths, and preserve the footage. Mauve paper seals should be used in all the ballot units, it said.

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