Calcutta HC scan on Dwivedi letter and process for bypoll
Calcutta High Court on Friday asked whether the Election commission of India could take a decision of holding bypoll to the Bhowanipore Assembly seat based on a request from the Bengal chief secretary.
During the hearing of a public interest litigation which challenged the process in which the Bhowanipore bypoll had been announced even as some other by-elections were pending, a division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj raised several other questions related to the holding of bypolls.
“The manner in which the court tossed the questions makes it clear that it wants to address the broader issue of bypoll in a seat that was already filled, but got vacated after the MLA resigned to offer the seat to someone else,” said a lawyer not involved with the case.
The PIL referred to alleged irregularities in the poll panel’s notification for the September 30 bypoll in Bhowanipore from where chief minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting.
The PIL has highlighted that the notification claimed it was announcing the bypoll based on a letter from chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi, who had mentioned that not holding the bypoll in Bhowanipore would result in a “constitutional crisis”. While the matter was heard on Friday, the court asked the following questions:
- Could the CEC take a decision to hold a bypoll for a particular seat on the basis of the chief secretary’s letter?
- Could the chief secretary of the state write such a letter praying for a bypoll to a seat, from which the chief minister has expressed her desire to contest, while bypolls were pending in other constituencies?
- How could the chief secretary write a letter in his official capacity mentioning the chief minister’s desire?
- What was the necessity of vacating a particular Assembly seat — by getting an elected member to resign — to fulfil the chief minister’s desire?
- Could the CEC have avoided spending about Rs 3 crore for the bypoll in a seat that already had an elected member?
After the conclusion of the hearing, advocate Sayan Banerjee, the petitioner, said he was not praying for the cancellation of the bypoll, but wanted answers to the legal queries about the bypoll.
The bench said the verdict would be pronounced “sometime later”.