Calcutta HC directs SEC & State to decide on deployment of Central Forces for Municipal Polls

Polling Elections Law Insider

Mitali Palnitkar

Published On: February 10, 2022 at 18:21 IST

On 10th February 2022, the State Election Commission (SEC) was directed by the Calcutta High Court to hold a meeting with Government Officials of West Bengal within 12 hours to decide whether Central Paramilitary Forces shall be deployed for ensuring peaceful conduct during upcoming Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation Elections.

The Bench comprised of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajashri Bharadwaj. It observed that if the SEC decides not to deploy the Central Paramilitary Forces, then the Commissioner of SEC will be personally liable to make sure that violence does not take place.

On 12th February 2022, the Elections to four Municipal Corporations – Siliguri, Bidhannagar, Asansol and Chandernaore are scheduled to take place. The results will be declared on February 14. The Polls to these four Municipal Corporations were postponed by the High Court in view of spike in Covid-19 cases few weeks ago.

During the Hearing, the Legality of Orders of SEC dated November 29, 2021 and February 7, 2022 were questioned by the Petitioners. The former Order stated that a Polling Agent shall be an Elector of polling area where Polling Station is set up. The latter Order stated that in a Polling premises where more than one station is situated, Polling Agent shall be an Elector of any polling area within the premises.

The SEC argued that the Orders imposed restriction from security point of view. The Court observed that the SEC issued Orders exercising its Jurisdiction under Article 243-ZA of the Constitution which empowers it to take necessary measures for conducting the Election.

Also, the Orders did not violate any Provisions of West Bengal Municipal Elections Act, 1994 or the West Bengal Municipalities (Conduct and Elections) Rules, 1995.

The Court dismissed the prayer of Petitioners to hold counting of votes and declaration of results simultaneously. It relied upon the Supreme Court Judgment in Case of State of Goa v FouziyaImtiaz Shaikh.

The Court noted that February 3 notification mentioned that the February 27 is the date of polling for remaining Municipal Corporations and the Election process will end before March 8, 2022.

However, the Court granted liberty to Petitioners to file appropriate representation before SEC with supporting materials. The Court directed SEC to take appropriate decision as per Law within 48 hours if the Petitioners file representations within 24 hours.

The Court asked the Respondent Authorities to comply with the previous directions of Court with respect to installation of CCTV cameras in Polling booths.

The matter is listed on February 15, 2022.

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