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HC asks SEC to initiate all possible measures for holding panchayat polls free of violence

Citing history of post-poll violence, bench stresses need to keep central forces in state for 10 days after counting day

Tapas Ghosh, Pranesh Sarkar Calcutta Published 07.07.23, 05:20 AM
Calcutta High Court.

Calcutta High Court. File picture

Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to initiate all possible measures for holding Saturday's panchayat polls free of violence and disputes so that people can cast votes with a smile.

"Complaints of violence and killings have been reaching from every corner of the state. How will the commission manage in two days?” Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam asked the SEC counsel.

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The Chief Justice said: “We hope and trust that being a constitutional body the SEC will take all possible steps so that voters can cast their votes smilingly.”

The bench said the central forces needed to stay even after the declaration of poll results on July 11, keeping in mind the alleged post-poll violence after Assembly poll results in May 2021. The bench directed the IG, BSF, engaged by the court to plan the deployment of central forces now, to communicate this with central authorities.

The suggestions of IG, BSF, were heeded in at least three cases. Sources said that initially fewer central forces personnel were sent to South 24-Parganas and more than required to Cooch Behar. This was rectified. Extra forces were sent to East Midnapore too.

The division bench also heard two petitions by leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari.

The first sought a contempt rule against the government for not abiding by the court order to take steps for central forces on time.

Additional solicitor general Billwadal Bhattacharyya informed the court that all 822 companies of central forces would reach Bengal by July 8.

Adhikari’s counsel said while the SEC marked only five centres in East Midnapore as sensitive, needing central forces, the entire district was disturbed and sensitive.

The Chief Justice asked the lawyer to ask his client to approach the IG, BSF.

As part of the second petition, Adhikari's counsel alleged that the Mamata Banerjee government violated poll rules by starting the "Sorasori Mukhyamantri" programme after rural polls were announced. The bench sought clarification from the SEC. The SEC said after coming to know about it on June 15, it asked the government to halt it. The other charge was that the state government had transferred many cops, again contrary to poll rules. Responding to this, the SEC counsel said all transfer orders were cancelled.

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