Supreme Court refuses to interfere with West Bengal Panchayat Polls

Supreme Court: The Bench of RK Agarwal and AM Sapre, JJ refused to extend the last date for the filing of nominations for panchayat polls in West Bengal, saying it cannot interfere with the election process. The Court, however, granted liberty to the candidates to approach the West Bengal State Election Commission for appropriate relief.

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had, in the petition, sought the following directions:

  • issue of nomination forms to the it’s candidates so as to enable them to file their nomination in the ensuing upcoming panchayat elections
  • take immediate steps to make arrangements for submission of nomination papers through email and to provide police protection to it’s candidates so as to enable them to collect and deposit the nomination forms for the purpose of contesting the panchayat elections already notified
  • call for Central Para-Military Forces to maintain the law and order during the conduct of the panchayat elections in the State of West Bengal.

Relying upon the newspaper reports which appeared in the Times of India, Kolkata edition dated 03.04.2018 and 04.04.2018, the Statesmen, Kolkata edition dated 04.04.2018 and the Telegraph e-paper preview, BJP had contended that it’s candidates who want to contest election for the panchayat which is to be held in the State of West Bengal are not allowed to collect the nominations forms and to submit the same on account of violent resistance being put by the supporters of the ruling party.

The Court, however, noticed that the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003 has empowered the State Election Commissioner to pass appropriate orders in relation to any grievance, when made by any political party, or/and their individual candidate including any independent candidate with regard to any matter relating to and arising out of the election and election process and

“It is, therefore, essentially for the State Election Commissioner to consider the grievance once made by any party or/and candidate as the case may be and pass appropriate order/s keeping in view the nature of grievance made and relevant factors concerning the election and its process.”

The Court, hence, disposed of the petition by granting liberty to all political parties, their candidates, including any independent candidate/s proposing to contest the election in question, to approach the State Election Commissioner with their any individual or/and collective grievance. The Court said that it hoped thatin order to ensure fair and free election to the panchayats, the State Election Commission will take appropriate steps to remove the apprehensions of the petitioner and/or intending candidates and they may not be deprived of their chance to contest the panchayat elections.

The West Bengal panchayat polls that are scheduled to be held on May 1, 3, and 5. According to the notification, the last date for filing of nominations is April 9 and the last date of scrutiny of the nominations is April 11. [Bhartiya Janata Party, West Bengal v. State of West Bengal,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 337, decided 09.04.2018]

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