WB govt proposes four-phased Panchayat polls

Kolkata, June 25 : As the uncertainty over the Panchayat elections continued, the West Bengal government on Tuesday proposed to conduct the elections in four phases.

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday proposed to conduct the elections in five phases in order to reduce the requirement of security arrangement in each phase.

According to reports, the decision to conduct the polls in four phase was taken by the state government during a meeting on Tuesday which was attended by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

As per the state government's proposal, the elections will be held on July 2 (Bankura, Purulia, West Midnapore), July 4 (North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogly, Burdwan and East Midnapore), July 6 (Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and Birbhum) and July 9 (Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri and South and North Dinajpur),

The meeting took place while the Calcutta High Court on the same day heard a case on deployment of central forces during Panchayat elections in West Bengal.

The court will state its decision on the matter on Wednesday.

The High Court had on Monday criticized the Centre for not providing adequate security forces for the Bengal Panchayat polls.

The Panchayat polls in West Bengal are scheduled to be held on July 2, 6 and 9.

On 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 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, 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.

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 25-06-2013)

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