High Court allows filing of nominations through email
Kolkata: The uncertainty over the day of the Panchayat elections in Bengal continued even on Tuesday with the division Bench led by the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court abstaining from delivering judgment regarding the security arrangements for the forthcoming polls that have been scheduled on May 14 as of now. It is expected to deliver its verdict on Thursday.
In another important development, the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept the nominations of those, who had sent their papers to the poll panel via email for the upcoming Panchayat elections, if those were found to be valid.
The move comes after the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had filed a petition before the court after its candidates failed to reach the BDO and SDO office for filing nominations. The party had filed around 800 nominations through email. However, SEC sources said they might approach the Supreme Court challenging the e-nomination order.
The State Election Commission on Tuesday expressed its satisfaction over the security arrangements undertaken by the state government for fair and peaceful election on May 14. The petition was filed by the Congress seeking quashing of the single-phase election date on May 14 on the grounds of the inadequate police force to ensure law and order.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta informed the court that the state has a total police force of 71,500 among which 61,000 will be used for the Panchayat polls. Presenting a detailed break-up of the security, Dutta maintained that there are 500 inspectors, 10000 SI and ASIs and around 61,000 constables, Home Guards and National Volunteer Force (NVF) available. Also, there will be 80,000 civic volunteers. Out of this, 71,500 forces available with the state, 2,000 armed police will be from the neighbouring states.
"We will be deploying 61,000 armed policemen for the elections. There will be one armed cop and one lathi-wielding constable in every polling booth," Dutta said, adding that this is the standard security arrangement for the elections that have been conducted in the neighbouring states.
It may be mentioned that after the SEC had declared that 34 percent seats in the Panchayat were uncontested, the number of polling booths stands at 47,451 while the number of polling premises is 34,962. Dutta also affirmed that there would be the deployment of sector mobile for taking care of the polling personnel.
When the Chief Justice asked Advocate Shaktinath Mukherjee whether the security arrangements made by the state police were satisfactory, he gave a positive reply.
The Opposition, particularly advocate Bikash Bhattacharjee on behalf of the CPI(M), said out of the 61,000 armed police that the state is claiming to deploy a large number are civic volunteers, forest guards and similar personnel. "Civic volunteers should not be used for law and order duty," Bhattacharjee maintained.
Regarding accepting e-nomination filing, the judgment by the division Bench read: "…When large-scale violence as to its independence, transparency and fairness had been made, it (SEC) should have acted with caution and diligence. It ought to have considered allowing the filing of nomination through e-mail and also accepted such nominations. This would have made all allegations against it virtually otiose."
The SEC had claimed before the court that they had received 340 complaints on the last day of filing of nominations of which 25 were sent through email. The poll panel had also said that the 25 emails contained 62 nominations of intending candidates. The SEC had opposed the appellant's plea of nominations through email, claiming that the West Bengal Panchayat Act did not have any such provision. Earlier, the Calcutta High Court had allowed nine candidates from Bhangar to file nomination through WhatsApp.