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Panchayat polls: Announce fresh schedule, Calcutta HC tells SEC

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the State Election Commission to make a fresh announcement extending the deadline for filing of nominations for the forthcoming Panchayat polls and finalise a new election schedule.
A single judge Bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar, quashing the SEC's April 10 order that had cancelled the extension for filing nomination which the state poll panel announced on the night of April 9, directed it to issue a fresh deadline extending the time for filing nominations in consultation with the state government and important stakeholders.
The court further reiterated that the stay on all Panchayat poll process which was issued on April 12 will be lifted once the Commission issues a fresh notification for nominations. It may be mentioned that the poll dates for Bengal were scheduled on May 1, 3 and 5 and counting on May 8.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed the high court's verdict and said: "We welcome the court's verdict. We were the one who wanted the election to take place. We did not move the court. Those who do not want the Panchayat elections went to the court." She further added: "However, we also have to look at people's inconvenience due to the heat in summer. It would have been better to complete the election by May. Our government wishes to wrap up the election process in a democratic way as early as possible."
Banerjee said the dates of the election were fixed by the SEC and the state government considering the natural calamities like heat wave, thunderstorms and rain.
Kalyan Banerjee, senior advocate in the Calcutta High Court and MP of Trinamool Congress, said: "The High Court has dismissed the opposition's prayer for halting the election. CPI(M) and BJP wanted to remove the Election Commissioner from his chair. The court has also refused to act on it."
The court also rejected the opposition's demand for deployment of the Central forces for the elections.
The Trinamool Congress too welcomed the order and said that it will not challenge the Calcutta High Court verdict in the higher court. TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said: "We welcome this verdict. We will not move the higher court to challenge this verdict."
Malay De met State Election Commissioner A K Singh a few hours after the verdict was announced to discuss the rescheduling of the elections.
The Opposition, however, claimed that the high court's order is a victory for the people of the state who believe in democracy. "The high court has quashed the SEC's April 10 notification which has cancelled its earlier order to extend the last date of nominations. Today the court has asked the State Election Commission to extend the date of filing nominations to allow all the Opposition candidates who could not file their nominations," said state BJP general secretary Pratap Banerjee who had moved the court against the SEC's April 10 notification.
"It is a moral defeat for the Trinamool Congress and it exposed the disability of the SEC, which failed to uphold its credibility by playing in the hands of the state government," state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Choudhury said.
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