SC to hear plea against HC order directing SEC to take call on Central Forces deployment for civic elections

New Delhi/Kolkata: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea by BJP leaders against the Calcutta High Court for directing the State Election Commissioner to examine the ground situation in each of the 108 West Bengal municipalities going to polls on February 27, and take a decision on deployment of central paramilitary forces.

A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hema kohli was told by senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for BJP leaders Mousumi Roy and Pratap Banerjee, that the high court has put the ball in State Election Commission's (SEC) court.

CJI Ramana said, Problem is virtually, we are now addressing the issue of governance. This is for the Election Commission to decide.

Patwalia, who mentioned the matter before the bench for urgent hearing, submitted that in another matter related to Tripura municipal elections, this court has passed orders related to deployment of central forces.

The bench then agreed to hear the matter on February 25.

The Calcutta High Court had said on Wednesday that if the commissioner decides against deploying paramilitary forces, then he will be personally liable to ensure that violence-free and fair elections take place.

Directing the commissioner of the SEC to collect information on conditions prevailing in municipalities where polls are scheduled, the High Court had asked him to hold a joint meeting with the home secretary and the DGP within 24 hours.

The court had asked the commissioner to take a decision in writing "by mentioning the relevant circumstances in support of his decision to deploy/not to deploy the paramilitary forces," in each of the 108 municipalities.

The state government had on Wednesday assured the SEC of adequate deployment of state police forces for conducting free-and-fair elections in 108 municipalities.

The state has said that it will be deploying 40,000 police forces for the polls while the SEC commissioner has asked for another 10 per cent increase of state police, so effectively, 44,000 police forces will be on duty on the polling day, There will be at least one armed police for each of the polling booths.

Earlier, praying for direction to the SEC to deploy paramilitary forces for the February 27 polls, the petitioners before the High Court had alleged that a state of terror is prevailing and in almost 10 per cent of the municipalities going for polls, ruling Trinamool Congress candidates have won uncontested as nominations were not allowed to be filed by other contestants.

Opposing the plea, the SEC counsel had submitted before the court that its earlier direction of February 10 was complied with and assessment of ground situation to deploy paramilitary forces for the Bidhannagar elections, as had been prayed for by the petitioner, was done and no need for the same was found.

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