Calcutta High Court reserves judgment in plea to hold municipal polls in state in one phase

Calcutta High Court reserves judgment in plea   to hold municipal polls in state in one phase

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Friday reserved the judgment in the plea moved by BJP state vice-president Pratap Banerjee seeking direction to the West Bengal government and the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold civic polls in the state in one phase.

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Rajarshi Bharadwaj, heard extensive arguments from the concerned parties and also took on record the affidavits-in-opposition filed by the state government and the SEC as well as the supplementary affidavit by the petitioner.

Advocate Pinky Anand, the counsel of the BJP, prayed that elections to Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) be held with the use of VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trial). She submitted that the KMC elections should be postponed until arrangements for such provisions are made.

Opposing the prayer, counsel for the SEC submitted that use of VVPAT is not a mandatory provision for holding civic polls.

Senior advocate Jayanta Mitra appearing for the State Election Commission contended before the Bench that the two contentions raised by senior counsel Anand in respect of usage of VVPAT containing EVMs and the purported violation of Section 38 of the West Bengal Municipal Elections Act, 1994 had not been averred in the plea filed.

Advocate General SN Mookherjee submitted that the state had indicated in its affidavit that elections to the remaining municipal bodies would be completed by May 2022. He further informed that such an outer limited had been reserved keep in mind the upcoming board examinations, festivals and the ongoing pandemic. However, the court is expected to announce its judgment on Monday.

Earlier, the SEC filed an affidavit in connection with arrangements and duration of civic polls. The Commission informed the court that the elections will be held in 6-8 phases in the month of May 2022.

Earlier, the SEC had informed the court that it is unable to conduct civic polls in one phase because of unavailability of EVMs. To conduct civic polls in one phase, 30,000 EVMs are required. At present, the Commission has over 15000 EMVs. The SEC has claimed that 85 percent of the residents in Kolkata have received double vaccine doses followed by Howrah Municipal Corporation where 55 percent have got both the jabs. So to start with, the Commission wants to hold polls in the two civic bodies and will gradually do so for all municipalities where elections are pending. KMC elections are scheduled to be held on December 19. Civic polls are pending in 112 municipalities of the state, including Kolkata, since 2020. It was learnt a few days ago that the arrears of re-election will be completed by the SEC in two or three steps.

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