Kolkata: A single Bench of the Calcutta HC on Monday extended a stay on the Panchayat election process in Bengal till the next date of hearing as an appeal on the maintainability of a petition by the BJP is pending before a division Bench. Justice Subrata Talukdar directed that he will take up the matter on Tuesday at 2 pm after going through Monday's order of the appeal Bench.
The State Election Commission and the Trinamool Congress had moved the division Bench comprising justices D Somadder and Arindam Mukherjee challenging the single Bench order which had accepted the maintainability of the petition at this stage.
The division Bench said it does not want to interfere in an "intra-court matter" at this stage and made it clear that the petitions would be heard before the single Bench of Subrata Talukdar. However, the division Bench maintained that the hearing has to take place expeditiously and if necessary, it might take place every day. The decision of the division Bench has made it clear that the single Bench will now hear the petitions by the opposition parties as well as by the State Election Commission (SEC) and ruling Trinamool Congress on Tuesday.
Kalyan Banerjee, advocate for Trinamool Congress said: "Day-to-day hearing will take place from Tuesday. I had raised my doubts over maintainability of the petition and had argued that it is not maintainable. We will argue our matter in Calcutta High Court only and would not go to the Supreme Court."
Welcoming the order, BJP's Bengal unit general secretary Pratap Banerjee said: "The division Bench has rejected the ruling party's appeal to vacate the single Bench order." Banerjee on Monday furnished a bond of Rs 5 lakh as fine imposed by the court on the party for "misrepresenting facts" by moving both the Supreme Court and the High Court on the same plea.
Justice Talukdar also permitted state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury to become a party in the case.
It may be mentioned that the single Bench of Justice Talukdar had stayed the election process on March 12 and had fixed the hearing in the case for on Monday. It had directed the SEC to present a comprehensive report on the election process which was furnished by the latter on Monday. Petitions on the rural polls came up for hearing both in the single Bench and the division Bench after the ruling TMC moved the division Bench against the single Bench's stay. On April 9, the State Election Commission had extended by a day the last day for filing nominations after the BJP and opposition parties alleged that the ruling party was resorting to muscle power and violence to prevent its candidates from filing nominations. The next morning, it withdrew the order citing legalities.
As per the original schedule, the nomination process ended on April 9. The polls are scheduled to be held on May 1, 3 and 5 with counting on May 8.