West Bengal: State Election Fee, Trinamool transfer HC division bench

KOLKATA: The State Election Commission and the ruling have filed two appeal petitions challenging the stay on the poll process by the on Friday. A division bench of Justice Biswanath Samadder and Justice will hear the petitions on Monday.
However, in view of the HC stay order — valid from Thursday to Monday before the division bench hears out the matter — state election commissioner Amarendra Singh issued a directive on Thursday to the DMs and district panchayat election officers to stall the poll process — withdrawal of nominations, allotment of symbols, and publication of the list of candidates — until further orders. The commission has also requested the DMs to put the training programme of poll officials on hold till further instructions. BJP leader Mukul Roy complained to the State Election Commission (SEC) against holding such training programmes when the high court has stayed the poll process. The commission will submit a comprehensive status report to the division bench on Monday and wait for its directive, sources said.

Going by the commission’s directive, all applications for withdrawal of nominations filed by candidates on Thursday —including the one by BJP candidate Chitralekha Roy, the lone opposition candidate in the Birbhum zilla parishad — have been put on hold.

The commission’s directive comes soon after the court of Justice Subrata Talukdar found that the SEC “has failed to allay grievances/take steps” as directed by the Supreme Court on April 9 and the high court on April 10. During these days, the commission went ahead with the scrutiny of nominations.

Senior lawyer and Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee on Friday approached the division bench and sought the court’s permission to file the appeal petition on an urgent basis. He submitted that he received the court order late on Thursday and moved the bench at the earliest. The bench then asked Banerjee to serve a notice to all the parties concerned. The matter has been listed for Monday. SEC secretary Nilanjan Shandilya also wanted to be party to the appeal case. The BJP has already received notice of the appeal petition. “We will go through it and take steps as per law,” said Sumeet Chowdhury, member of BJP’s legal cell.

Banerjee in his appeal petition reiterated the main grounds of the arguments he made in the court on Thursday. Banerjee stated that the SC had on April 9 directed the SEC to dispose grievances, if any, strictly in accordance with law. Banerjee then cited the law — Panchayat Act, 2003 — and stated that it doesn’t permit the commission to give a four hour window the next day to candidates who failed to file nominations. He stated in his petition that the commission’s April 9 directive is not sustainable under Section 46(2) of the Act. He also stated the HC’s interim stay on April 10 became “infructuous” because the order came after 3pm, when the last hour of filing of nominations was already over. Banerjee then cited a SC order to challenge the stay order on the poll process. “No high court in the exercise of its power under Article 226 of the Constitution, should pass any order, interim or otherwise, which has the tendency or effect of postponing an election, which reasonably imminent and in relation to which its jurisdiction is invoked,” he stated in the petition.

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