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April 27, 2018
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Stay on panchayat polls in West Bengal continuesDivision Bench declines to interfere with earlier High Court order

A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Monday refused to interfere with the order of the single-judge Bench that stayed the process of panchayat polls in the State last week.

The development has raised questions on whether the rural polls will be held as per the schedule announced by the State Election Commission for May 1, 3 and 5.

Hearing today

Justice Subrata Talukdar, who had issued the stay on the poll process on April 12, will hear the matter on Tuesday.

Delivering its order on Monday, the Division Bench of Justices Biswanath Somadder and Arindam Mukherjee said that it “did not wish to interfere with the order passed by the single Bench”.

The Bench, however, taking note that the term of elected rural bodies in the State is expiring in August, urged Justice Talukdar to decide the matter “as expeditiously as possible by holding day-to-day hearings”.

Opposition upbeat

The developments at the High Court came as a shot in the arm for the Opposition parties which had raised the issue of violence during the nomination process.

Almost 1.5 lakh candidates from different political parties have filed nomination papers for the rural polls in West Bengal, but the process remains stalled because of the ongoing legal cases.

The Opposition parties described the development as their victory. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while refraining from commenting on the court’s order, said that the Opposition was “purposely trying to delay the process of polls”.

Appearing for the Trinamool Congress, party MP Kalyan Banerjee argued that the petition of the Opposition was not maintainable. He cited a number of Supreme Court orders where it had ruled that courts cannot interfere with the election process once it is announced.

Noted psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty said that at least two weeks are required for campaigning for rural polls after the nomination withdrawal process, and till tomorrow (Tuesday) the withdrawal process is stayed, so the State Election Commission will have to issue a fresh schedule for the polls.

Meanwhile, the Congress and the Left parties organised protests over the violence during the nomination process of the panchayat polls.

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, along with other party leaders, held a fast during the day, whereas leaders of 17 Left parties organised a protest rally on the issue.