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Rural poll case back with same bench

Calcutta High Court. File picture

Calcutta: A division bench of Calcutta High Court on Monday declined to interfere in the panchayat election case and sent it to the same single-judge bench that had stayed the process for the time being.

The Mamata Banerjee government, the Trinamul Congress and the state election commission had separately approached the division bench against the interim stay issued by the single-judge bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar.

"The division bench should not interfere in the case," the bench of Justices Biswanath Somadder and Arindam Mukherjee said on Monday.

During the hearing, it also emerged that the panchayat tenure will end only in August, which eases the pressure for rapid action.

The poll panel has scheduled the polling on May 1, 3 and 5 and the counting on May 8. Some officials have been citing the narrow window to justify the refusal to grant more time to file nominations.

The single-judge bench of Justice Talukdar will hear the case on Tuesday, when the poll commission will have to submit a report stating the steps taken by it after the Supreme Court and the high court ordered it to consider the allegations levelled by prospective Opposition candidates. The Opposition had accused the ruling party's workers of preventing them from filing nominations.

During the course of the hearing, Justice Somadder asked poll panel secretary Nilanjan Sandilya: "When will the five-year term of the panchayats end?"

"August this year," Sandilya replied.

Moving the appeal for Trinamul, party MP and senior advocate Kalyan Banerjee contended that the petition moved by the BJP before the single-judge bench was "not maintainable" because no court had the jurisdiction to entertain poll-related matters while the election process was on.

Asked by the judge, poll panel secretary Sandilya echoed Banerjee.

But the division bench held that the single-judge bench was yet to reach a conclusion on whether the petition was maintainable and had only issued an interim order.

Later in the day, the chief minister said: "I will not make a comment on what has happened in court. But all our development initiatives have been stuck because of the model code of conduct being in force (since March 31)," Mamata said on her way out of Nabanna on Monday evening.

"The Opposition parties don't trust democracy, that's why they have been moving courts, without facing elections," Mamata added.

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