Panchayat ballot case stares at extended listening to in Calcutta Excessive Courtroom

KOLKATA: The on Tuesday extended the stay on the till Wednesday, when it hears the panchayat election petitions for the second day. With as many as five petitioners (BJP, Congress, CPM, PDS and CPI) and two respondents (the state election commission and ) in the case, the daily hearing of the case may now stretch up to the end of the week, along with the stay.
The possibility became apparent when senior lawyer and Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee took the entire hearing session since 2pm on Tuesday, arguing that the court couldn’t stall the ongoing election process. Justice Subrata Talukdar, however, had asked the petitioners at the very outset how long each of them would take to place their argument. Banerjee submitted it was not possible for him to give a time-frame. The Trinamool MP will place his arguments again on Wednesday. “Everyone knows the matter won’t end here. It will be sorted out in Supreme Court,” Banerjee said during his submission, dropping clear hints that polls won’t be held under the announced schedule.

Banerjee, in his two-and-a-half-hour submission, based his argument citing Article 243(O) of the Constitution that states that the court can’t call into question an ongoing election process and pass an order.

Citing Supreme Court judgments on election matters since 1952, Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee Banerjee read out an order of the apex court in 1985 that states: “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 is reasonably imminent and in relation to which the writ jurisdiction is invoked.” The senior lawyer also drew the court’s attention to the “media trial” on this issue and the comment passed by a former Supreme Court judge when the BJP petition didn’t pray for stalling the election process.

Justice Talukdar wanted to know from Banerjee why the Supreme Court, on April 11, had sent the petitioners back to high court if the court had no jurisdiction on taking up the matter. The fact remains that courts — Supreme Court and the high court — didn’t intervene in the election process for the first 10 days, right from the election notification on March 31 to April 9, the last day of filing nominations.

Aggrieved candidates unable to file nominations on the last day had moved Supreme Court on that day. The apex court didn’t pass any order. Instead, it directed the state election commissioner to redress grievances, if any, in accordance with the law. The commission, following the Supreme Court directive, issued a notification at night on the same day, giving a four-hour window to candidates to file nominations the next day. But before the nominations could start, the commissioner took back the April 9 notification, prompting petitioners to move court again. The Supreme Court, on April 11, had asked petitioners to take up the matter with the high court.

Justice Talukdar wanted to know why the commission, after giving a window following the apex court order on April 9, took it back on April 10. “There is no question of intervening into the election process. The court has taken up a small portion of the election process that pertains to the commission’s taking back the notification it issued following the Supreme Court order. If there is a violation of the Supreme Court order, there is a remedy,” Justice Talukdar said.

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