Bengal panchayat poll on May 14 as court refuses to interfere

Saturday 05th May 2018 07:24 EDT

KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court has refused to interfere in the schedule of the West Bengal panchayat polls, pulling up the state election commission for not conducting itself in a “manner that showed neutrality”. It is reported that the court said the poll body floundered in upholding its constitutional obligations. Election to the state's local administrative bodies is scheduled to be held on May 14. The poll body had earlier said the elections will be held on three days, on May 1, 3, and 5.

The new dates triggered accusations from opposition parties that said the voting decision was taken to oblige the ruling Trinamool Congress. The HC said, “SEC reduced the number of phases for the panchayat polls in the state from three to one without providing necessary clarification which raised eyebrows. It is expected that the commission will redeem itself by treating the court's observations as a wake-up call.” The polling process earlier stalled after the opposition parties in the state petitioned both the SC and the HC alleging widespread violence and strong-arm tactics by the ruling party throughout the nomination process between April 2 and 9 and on April 23.

Opposition parties have alleged that the ruling party's supporters were using every weapon of intimidation, from phone calls to crude bombs and firearms, to prevent their candidates from filing nomination, which began on April 2. The nomination process was supposed to continue till March 9. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has moved the Supreme Court seeking an extension of the nomination process and the deployment of central forces to ensure a free and fair election. The SC refused to step in on April 9, saying the SEC should address its grievances.

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