Kolkata: The Calcutta high court on Friday ordered the West Bengal state election commission to accept nominations from people looking to contest the upcoming panchayat elections for at least one more day, which implies that polling cannot be held as scheduled between 1 May and 5 May. Votes were to be counted on 8 May.

The legal battle between the commission and opposition parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intensified after the election watchdog on 10 April reversed its own decision to extend the window for filing nominations by one day.

Justice Subrata Talukdar on Friday found the commission’s notification of 10 April to be untenable.

Polling schedule is expected to be changed because a gap of 21 days between filing of nominations and polling is a statutory requirement.

Even as opposition leaders claimed moral victory, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, a lawyer who represented the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, said depending on how the commission conducts the poll, his party would decide whether or not to seek judicial intervention again.

Opposition parties such as the BJP and CPM have alleged that their candidates have been obstructed from filing nominations.

Welcoming Friday’s verdict, the BJP’s general secretary in West Bengal, Pratap Banerjee, said the party could still move court for deployment of central forces on polling days. Polls were to be held in three phases. The commission has rejected the opposition parties’ demand for central forces.

Kalyan Banerjee, a Trinamool Congress MP and a lawyer, said his party would not appeal against justice Talukdar’s verdict. He and the commission had previously argued that the judiciary could not intervene in the elections once a notification had been issued.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she wants the commission to quickly decide on a revised schedule and hold the elections as quickly as possible. The summer is intensifying and monsoon is approaching, she said, adding that no time should be wasted.

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