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Supreme Court Rejects West Bengal Government's Plea for Central Forces Deployment in Panchayat Polls [Read Order]

By Harshvardhan Sharma      22 June, 2023 10:00 PM      0 Comments
Supreme Court Rejects West Bengal Government's Plea for Central Forces Deployment in Panchayat Polls

NEW DELHI: In a strong rebuke to the Mamata Banerjee government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said conduct of polls is no licence to violence as it junked its plea against deployment of central forces in each districts of the state in the upcoming Panchayat polls on July 8.

A vacation bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Manoj Mishra dismissed separate petitions filed by the Mamata Banerjee government and the State Election Commission against the high court's division bench orders.

"The order of the high court does not call for any interference. We are not interfering with any other direction of the high court too. All the appeals stand dismissed,” the bench said, rejecting all their contentions.

Senior advocates Meenakshi Arora, Devadatt Kamat and Siddharth Bhatnagar appearing for the SEC and the WB government questioned the validity of the orders, raising the issue of jurisdiction as well.

Senior advocates Harish Salve, Maninder Singh, Vivek Tankha and Guru Krishna Kumar, appearing on the opposite side, defended the high court's directions in view of past instances as well as current spate of violence seen during the filing of nomination papers.

Agreeing to their submission, the bench said the tenor of the high court order is to ensure that free and fair elections are conducted in the state since the state is conducting polls for all the booths on the same day.

The bench also noted the state government itself has admitted the police personnel were not adequate and sought extra forces from Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and others.

"The high court must have thought why half a dozen states? Let central forces be brought in,” the bench said.

The bench said free and fair elections are a hallmark of grassroots democracy. The deployment of central forces across all districts of the state will ascertain decorum not only at sensitive booths but at all the booths in the state, it added.

The court also castigated the SEC as to how it was aggrieved by the order for deployment of central forces as the body itself has asked for additional forces.

"Where do the forces come from, how are you bothered? How is your petition maintainable? The high court order is in fact in aid to discharging your responsibility whether you have state forces, or central forces or from other states, you cannot have any concern,” the bench told the SEC's counsel.

"You can in fact be rest assured that there will be free and fair election not only at sensitive booths but also at all other booths. Conduct of elections cannot be a licence to violence. However, having regard to the history of violence and past incidents, the high court entertained the petition, and decided to pass these orders. You don't have a reason to be aggrieved,” the bench told the SEC.  

The Calcutta High Court had issued its directions on a batch of petitions filed by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and BJP leader Shuvendu Adhikari and others.

At least six people have been killed in the violence since the announcement of polls on June 9 with Opposition leaders alleging candidates not belonging to ruling parties were prevented from filing their nomination papers.

The HC had on June 13 asked the SEC to requisition central forces to be deployed in areas identified as ‘sensitive’ by the SEC in its report. On June 15, it directed the SEC to requisition central forces for all districts in the state within 48 hours.

[Read Order] 



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