WB govt, SEC file response in HC to central force coordinator’s allegation of non-cooperation

The West Bengal government and the State Election Commission (SEC) on Wednesday filed their response to allegations of non-cooperation for deployment of central forces for the panchayat elections made by the BSF inspector general before the Calcutta High Court.

The high court had on July 12 directed the SEC and the state government to file their response by way of affidavits on the report of the BSF official who is the force coordinator of central forces for the July 8 rural polls in West Bengal.

Both filed their affidavits before a division bench comprising Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice Uday Kumar following the direction of the court on contempt petitions alleging that its earlier orders for deployment of central forces and ensuring free and fair polls were not followed by the SEC and the state authorities.

The court had on July 4 directed the deployment of central forces in all polling booths in the state.

Earlier on June 21, the high court had asked the SEC to requisition more than 82,000 central forces personnel for deployment in panchayat elections, and their number should be more than what was deployed during the 2013 rural polls in the state.

The SEC counsel submitted that all the points raised in the force coordinator’s report will be addressed on the next hearing date.

Additional solicitor general Ashok Chakraborty, appearing for the Centre, submitted that the coordinator’s report pointed to a delay in furnishing the deployment plan, stating that it is not sufficient that the plan was sent to the district magistrates.

He stated that the booth-wise deployment plan ought to have been made known much earlier, which would have assisted in the deployment of the central forces.

Senior advocate P S Raman, representing the SEC, submitted that there were 14 allegations of non-cooperation, which he claimed dealt mainly with alleged delay in deployment plan, non-communication of sensitive booths within a reasonable time and advising on district-wise deployment to the central force commanders.

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He claimed that the SEC had acted with reasonable expedition within the time frames.

The chief justice said that after the Supreme Court upheld the order of the high court about the deployment of central forces for the rural polls, it should have been a joint exercise by rightfully accepting the order in letter and spirit.

He observed that the lives which were lost cannot be brought back by issuing a rule of contempt, nor by way of compensation.

The matter will be heard again on July 17.

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