West Bengal Panchayat polls: Calcutta High Court extends filing of nomination

West Bengal Panchayat polls: Calcutta High Court extends filing of nomination”

The hearing on Panchayat polls in Calcutta High Court entered its third day today as the court's single-bench extended the stay on the poll process of the village bodies by another day till Thursday.

The apex court, while refusing to order the deployment of central forces, asked the SEC to ensure a "free and fair election" is conducted. "It is a victory for the people who did not get any help from the police to file nomination", said Pratap Banerjee, general secretary of the Bengal unit of BJP.

Earlier the opposition parties moved Supreme Court after the State Election Commission (SEC), in the wake of reports of pre-poll panchayat violence, extended the nomination filing deadline to only rescind it within hours.

Justice Talukdar asked the state government as to what authority it has to advise the SEC that it can not extend the date for nomination.Panchayat department secretary Sourav Das told the court that the state appoints the dates for elections considering a lot of factors including the weather.

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The rural polls were earlier scheduled to be held in three phases on May 1, 3 and 5. The Trinamool Congress, which wants a larger role in national politics, wants to retain its hold over the state's grassroots-level politics, while the BJP, fast emerging as Bengal's main Opposition party, is keen to expand its footprint.

The SEC had previously said it withdrew the April 9 notification following a letter of legal advice by state Additional Chief Secretary Saurabh Kumar Das and ruling Trinamool Congress's Vice President Kalyan Banerjee that the notification for extension was a violation of Panchayat Act's section 46 (2). At the high court, Justice Subrata Talukdar suspended all processes of the Bengal rural polls till April 16. Justice Subrata Talukdar increased the stay on election processes by one more day on Wednesday and set the date of the next hearing on Thursday at 10.30 am.

The BJP again moved the Supreme Court on April 11 and was directed to approach the high court with its grievances over the deadline for filing nominations.

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