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Panel sees red at hearing abuse

Siliguri, Sept. 6: The Delimitation Commission of India has taken serious umbrage over the manner in which the representatives 'of a particular political party' repeatedly attempted to stall the hearing of submissions on the proposed realignment of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies in West Bengal.

Yesterday's events have so unnerved the commission that it had to issue a statement to the Press today wherein it has appealed 'to all political parties and members of the public to cooperate with the proceedings and allow the public sittings to be conducted in an orderly manner at Durgapur and Kolkata...'

Trinamul Congress supporters, led by Mamata Banerjee, had laid siege to Dinabandhu Mancha where the hearing was held. Mamata had demanded that all applications should be heard by the commission.

A beleaguered chairman of the commission, 73-year-old Justice (retd) Kuldip Singh, tried to keep a smile on his face today as he spoke to the media in the aftermath of yesterday's exercise. However, sources close to Singh said the septuagenarian was hurt by the way he was repeatedly abused by 'members of a particular party.'

'I have attended hearings in four states and a Union Territory so far, and those progressed smoothly, with all the submissions being heard,' the chairman said.

'But yesterday's incidents were beyond my expectations. In fact, in all my years, I have not heard such comments being made at me,' he told reporters after the briefing.

The hearing at Dinabandhu Mancha yesterday was the first of three in the state, scheduled to address the objections and suggestions over the new seat demarcations.

Officially, too, the statement had enough strong words to merit consideration of action against that 'particular political party' on the commission's return to Delhi. When asked about this, Election Commission member N. Gopalaswamy did not rule out the possibility.

The press note says the commission was dismayed to find that as soon as the sitting commenced, there was an attempt by the representatives of a particular political party to stall the proceedings by raising issues which were not related to the composition of the constituencies.

'Preliminary issues raised by the party were clarified by the chairman, who appealed to them not to adopt obstructive tactics and to allow the proceedings to continue. Despite that, the proceedings were repeatedly disrupted by slogans and personal attacks on the chairman and other officials of the commission.'

The commission was also 'pained to find that attempts to disrupt the proceedings' were continued by that political party, although other party representatives and members of the public were keen on continuing the sitting to hear the genuine suggestions to the commission's proposals.

It further says: 'Although the commission was prepared to continue the sitting beyond 6 pm, a group of representatives and activists of the particular political party continued to disrupt proceedings

Asked whether the development would have an effect on the two remaining hearings, Justice Singh said the panel would continue with them as scheduled as the voters should be given an opportunity to speak.

'But we will have to take legal opinion, may be consult the attorney general, on the exact definition of a public hearing,' that is, how many people can attend a single hearing, what course to take in case of interruptions.

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