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West Bengal panchayat polls: Calcutta HC directs state EC to consult all stakeholders on security arrangements

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court directed the State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday to hold meaningful consultations with all stakeholders in West Bengal on security arrangements for the panchayat elections.

Observing that the commission should be mindful of the Supreme Court directive on it to address grievances, Justice Subrata Talukdar, however, made it clear that the SEC will be the final decision-maker on security arrangements.

Calcutta High Court. News18

The court directed the SEC to inform a division bench presided by Acting Chief Justice J Bhattacharya on the security arrangements made for the elections.

Justice Talukdar gave the direction after noting the concerns of opposition political parties, which have petitioned the court over the necessity for sufficient security arrangements for the three-tier panchayat elections, nominations for which ended yesterday.

The petitioners were given liberty to air their views on security arrangements before the division bench which is also seized of petitions on the issue.

At least three persons have been killed and many others injured in pre-election clashes across the state.

The BJP, the Congress and the Left parties have alleged widespread violence by activists of the ruling Trinamool Congress during the nomination process. The TMC has, on the other hand, blamed the Opposition parties for vitiating peace in some parts of the state in the run-up to the local body elections.

The high court had on 20 April quashed the SEC’s 10 April order cancelling extension of the deadline for filing nominations and directed it to issue a fresh notification extending the date for filing nominations for panchayat polls in West Bengal upon consultation with the state and the major collective stakeholders.

Taking note of an order by the superior bench presided by the acting chief justice on 6 April on security arrangements, the court asked the petitioners to move the division bench, where a contempt application is also pending on the issue.

The SEC has issued a fresh notification announcing 23 April as the extended date for filing of nominations for the three-tier panchayat elections in the state.

Hearing a PIL by state Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury who alleged that opposition party members were being threatened and assaulted, the division bench had directed that police authorities, including the superintendents of police of the respective districts, shall extend all assistance and cooperation so that the person concerned can file the nomination paper.

Chowdhury had also moved a contempt petition before the court alleging that the order has not been complied with.

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