Bengal rural polls: State Election Commissioner Rajiva Sinha appears before HC in contempt case

West Bengal State Election Commissioner Rajiva Sinha on Friday appeared before the Calcutta High Court following a contempt rule issued by it over deployment of central forces for holding free and fair panchayat elections in the state on July 8.

Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly and BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari and others had filed contempt petitions alleging willful and deliberate violation by Sinha of the high court’s June 15 order directing it to deploy the required number of central forces in all districts for the elections.

Pursuant to an order of October 13 by a division bench comprising Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice Uday Kumar, when a rule was issued under the Calcutta High Court Contempt of Court Rules, 1975 against the SEC, Sinha was present in the court in person.

Senior advocate P S Raman, appearing for Sinha, sought time for filing a comprehensive affidavit bringing on record all the relevant facts to support their contentions with regard to the matter.

The court directed that such an affidavit be filed by December 15, and a reply, if any, by the applicant by January 5, 2024.

The bench said that on January 8 the court will fix a date for commencement of hearing of the matter.

The bench dispensed with the presence of Sinha in the court with the observation that he would be present in court as and when required.

The high court had on October 13 ordered issuance of contempt rule against the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) over deployment of central forces for holding free and fair rural body elections in the state.

In its judgement on June 15, the division bench presided by the Chief Justice had directed the SEC to requisition the deployment of central forces for all districts in West Bengal for the panchayat polls.

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Noting that the SEC had thereafter requisitioned only 22 companies, one for each district, which was highly inadequate, the court had on June 21 held that the order and direction had not been complied with in letter and spirit.

The bench had thereafter directed the SEC to requisition sufficient numbers of central forces within 24 hours to be deployed to all the districts and that the number of companies be not less than the forces requisitioned for the 2013 panchayat election in the state, which was 82,000 personnel.

Maintaining that the SEC should have drawn up a deployment plan well in advance and shared the same with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the force coordinator of central forces sent to the state for the polls, the court had in its October 13 order said “This in our view would clearly show that there has been every attempt to make the order and direction issued in the writ petition unworkable.” 

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