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Supreme Court stays HC order on e-filing of nominations

New Delhi/Kolkata: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Calcutta High Court order asking the West Bengal State Election Commission to accept nomination papers filed through e-mail for contesting the panchayat elections in the state.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra took note of the fact that almost 17,000 candidates have won the panchayat polls unopposed and dubbed it "worrying" while directing the State Election Commission (SEC) not to declare them as winners.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, directed the state poll panel to ensure "free and fair" panchayat elections on May 14 in the state.
The apex court said the high court's direction and the fact that 34 percent of the candidates have won unopposed, is "worrying".
On May 8, the high court had directed the SEC to accept the nominations of those candidates named by CPI(M) who had filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time before 3 pm on April 23.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on July 3.
The SEC on Thursday moved the apex court challenging the Calcutta HC order directing it to accept the nominations of candidates who have filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time for the panchayat elections.
The state poll panel has sought a stay of the operation of May 8 order, saying it would suffer "irreparable loss and injury".
Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday disposed of the petition of the Congress seeking quashing of the single-phase Panchayat polling date on May 14 on the grounds of inadequate security arrangements thereby making it clear that it has no objections in holding of a single phase poll, as announced on May 14.
The division bench of Chief Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya and Justice Arijit Banerjee said it was up to the SEC to decide the date and further made it clear that the Bengal government would be liable for any loss of lives and property during the elections. The division bench reiterated that the state would have to pay compensation in such cases. " It is not competent for the court to decide as to what kind of a police force is required for conducting a free, fair and peaceful election. Since the state Election Commission is happy with the arrangement made by the state administration, we deem it proper not to pass further direction for the time being," the court observed.
The state Election Commission soon after the court order announced that Panchayat elections would be held on May 14 from 7 am till 5 pm. "The counting date will be on May 17. Counting will be held in 330 counting stations, and it will begin at 8 am," a senior SEC official said.
In the wake of 35 percent seats going uncontested, the SEC informed that voting would be held in 31836-gram panchayats (GP) out of a total of 48650, in 6158 panchayat samitis (PS) out of 9217 and in 622 zilla parishads out of 825. "Voting will be held in 34962 out of 43067 polling stations," the official added.
Welcoming the decision of the judiciary, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: "Whatever has happened is good for the common people. We are also in favour of democracy. We are in favour of elections." She further added that the election should pass off peacefully.
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