Calcutta HC says Bengal panchayat poll results will be subject to its final orders

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday said that the panchayat elections in West Bengal and the declaration of results will be subject to its final orders in connection with matters which it is hearing over allegations of electoral malpractices on the day of polling.

The court directed the State Election Commission (SEC), the state government and the central government to file affidavits dealing with all the allegations made in three petitions alleging malpractices.

“When the court is seized of the matter, it goes without saying that whatever has been done thus far, i.e, the conduct of the elections and the declaration of results, will be subject to the ultimate orders that may be passed in this writ petition,” he said.

The court directed that the SEC should inform this aspect to all the candidates who have been declared elected.

Alleging large-scale violence and electoral malpractice during the panchayat election on July 8, the petitioners prayed for a direction to the SEC to conduct repolling in around 50,000 booths.

Repolling was done in 696 booths and counting of ballots began on July 11.

One petitioner who displayed videos showing alleged rampant malpractices on the day of the election was directed to furnish a copy of the videos to the lawyers of the SEC, the state and the central governments by Wednesday.

The court directed that the matter will be taken up for hearing on July 19.

Taking a dim view of the SEC, the bench said it is of prima facie view that the response from the Commission is not adequate and that even on Wednesday, none of its officers was present in the court to give necessary instructions to its counsel.

“It is not clear why the commission is not proactive especially when the court had been monitoring the entire process and the first judgement was delivered on June 13,” the court said.

The court had passed a series of orders for the conduct of the three-tier rural elections in West Bengal in a free and fair manner.

The court said that it is surprised to note that even after the declaration of results, the state is not able to control the violence which has erupted in several places.

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“The responsibility to ensure that there is no breach of peace lies with the state government. If the state government is not in a position to safeguard its citizens, then it is a very serious matter to be taken note of,” the court said.

The petitioner also sought direction to the CBI to register an FIR and conduct investigation into the violence and electoral malpractice and a forensic audit of the video footage of the polling booths and a forensic audit of the ballot papers by an independent agency.

It was also prayed that the state government be directed to forward a report to the central government on the bomb blasts on the day of the election.

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