Panchayat Polls: SC to Hear Tuesday Plea Against HC Order Directing Deployment of Central Forces in West Bengal

The Supreme Court agreed to hear on Tuesday a plea challenging an order of the Calcutta High Court directing the State Election Commission (SEC) to requisition and deploy central forces across West Bengal for the panchayat elections.

The matter was mentioned on Monday before a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and M M Sundresh by senior advocate Meenakshi Arora who sought an urgent hearing.

Arora, who was appearing for the SEC, told the appeal against the order was filed on Friday last but was not taken up.

The high court on June 15 had directed the SEC to requisition and deploy central forces across West Bengal for the panchayat elections within 48 hours.

The court had noted that no appreciable steps have been taken ever since an order was passed by it on June 13 to deploy central forces in sensitive areas for the poll process.

The high court had directed the SEC to requisition the deployment of central forces for all the districts in the state which were rocked by violence over filing of nominations for the July 8 panchayat elections.

Noting that till date no effective steps have been taken to identify sensitive areas from the law and order point of view and in light of the SEC’s submission that it may take a couple of days more to do so, the court had said, “Waiting any longer will cause more damage to the situation and will not aid in protecting the purity of the election process.”

The high court had directed the Centre to deploy the required number of central forces and that the cost of it will be borne by the Union government and no part of it will be charged to the state.

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The court had on June 13 directed requisition and deployment of central forces forthwith in the areas and districts declared sensitive by the SEC.

The SEC was directed to thereafter review the assessment plan submitted by the state and wherever there is inadequacy of the state police force, paramilitary force will be deployed.

Opposition leaders, including BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari and Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, had petitioned the court for deployment of central forces for ensuring peaceful elections, stating the state had witnessed large-scale violence during the municipal elections in 2022 and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections in 2021.

They had also prayed for an extension of the last date of nomination claiming that the time given was not adequate. The court had left it to the SEC to consider the prayer. 

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