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Calcutta HC stays Panchayat poll processes till April 16

Kolkata: Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed all processes of the West Bengal rural polls to be suspended till April 16, when the State Election Commission (SEC) will submit a report on the measures it has taken to ensure peaceful filing of nominations by the Opposition.
Justice Subrata Talukdar also imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the BJP for misrepresentation, likening the party's conduct to "forum hopping" after the saffron brigade approached both the high court and the Supreme Court on similar pleas. The state government has decided to move the division Bench of the high court on Friday challenging the single Bench's verdict.
The high court has ordered the SEC to submit on April 16 a comprehensive status report on the poll process, detailing the number of nominations filed and the percentage of nominations rejected, amongst other information.
Trinamool counsel and party MP, Kalyan Banerjee, argued both inside the court and outside that according to Article 243-O of the Constitution, courts do not have right to interfere in electoral matters after the election process has begun.
"We are approaching a Division Bench against this order," said Banerjee.
The BJP had already moved a caveat before the Division Bench of Justice Biswanath Somadder and Arindam Mukherjee where the TMC is supposed to move their petition challenging the single Bench order.
It is learnt that Justice Talukdar will take a decision on resuming the poll process after getting the SEC's report.
Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said the Opposition has nothing to rejoice as the people of Bengal are with the TMC and its development agenda. "We have full faith in the judiciary. They are trying to delay the election process as they have no organisational strength. Elections will be held today or tomorrow and then it will be proved clearly that the people of the state have full faith in our development agenda. The changes that we have brought about will reflect in the vote box," Chatterjee said.
It may be mentioned that Justice Talukdar's order came in the wake of a petition moved by the Bengal unit of the BJP, alleging that the ruling Trinamool Congress has resorted to violence to prevent their candidates from filing nominations for the forthcoming Panchayat polls.
The Congress welcomed the high court orders. "I salute the high court. At least they are listening to our agony when the government, police and even the State Election Commission are turning a deaf ear to our pleas," said state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury.
"We welcome the decision of the Calcutta High Court," said MoS heavy industry and Lok Sabha MP Babul Supriyo.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose said the verdict of the single Bench has proved that the allegations that we have made are genuine.
Elections are scheduled to be held in three phases from May 1, 3 and 5 with the counting happening on May 8. The filing of nominations for the Panchayat polls began on April 2 and ended on April 9. Scrutiny of nominations took place on April 11. The withdrawal of nomination had started on Thursday and with the high court's order, the process has been stalled.
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