Hold Panchayat polls by July 15: High Court

Kolkata, May 14 : In a verdict that has been apparently welcomed by the West Bengal government on a warpath with the State Election Commission (SEC), the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asked the state government to hold Panchayat polls by July 15 with proper security arrangements and deployment of armed policemen.

Giving its ruling on an appeal by the state government against a single bench verdict of last Friday, the Calcutta High Court division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Joymalyo Bagchi ordered panchayat polls by July 15 in three phases and held that additional forces for a peaceful election should be drawn from either outside but did not specify it as central forces.

The division bench thus upheld the direction for three phased polls by the single judge bench of the high court.

According to the lawyer of the SEC, the notification for the polls must be within three days and 400 observers have to be provided to the commission.

The court called for armed cops in all sensitive booths, ordering the government to ensure deployment of two armed policemen and two constables at every highly sensitive booth.

For lesser sensitive booths it is one armed cop and a constable.

The court said any shortfall in arming the booths or maintaining law and order can be met through requisition from outside not specifying if it is from centre or other states.

West Bengal Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said he welcomed the verdict though he had dubbed the Friday single bench judgement as impractical and unrealistic.

"We are happy. It is a victory of law. There was a conspiracy not to hold polls. We had said that the state laws were not being followed by the state election commission," he said.

"They asked us to hold by July 15 which is okay for us despite difficulties owing to rain and heat. We will arrange for a free and fair poll," he said.

Regarding sensitivity of booths, he said the court verdict is nothing new regarding deployment of two cops, including an armed one, in every booth.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and chief election commissioner Mira Pandey were engaged in a battle over the Panchayat poll dates and finally the matter went to court.

The commission wanted three phased polls while the state government wanted the poll in either one phase or two phases.

--IBNS (Posted on 14-05-2013)

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