Kolkata: Uncertainty over holding the panchayat elections in West Bengal as scheduled between 1 May and 8 May intensified on Monday after a division bench of the Calcutta high court dismissed an appeal against last week’s trial court order stalling the electoral process.
The division bench of justices Biswanath Somadder and Arindam Mukherjee ruled on Monday that the high court’s intervention last week was legitimate and that further hearing of the dispute will continue in the court of justice Subrata Talukdar.
Talukdar had asked the state election commission to explain what it had done to dispose of complaints filed by opposition parties while stalling the electoral process till Monday.
Appearing for the Trinamool Congress, the party’s Lok Sabha MP Kalyan Banerjee argued that the Supreme Court had earlier declined to interfere because it held that the judiciary “ought" not to do so once the electoral process had started.
But eventually the apex court ordered the Calcutta high court to hear complaints from opposition parties after considering the question of whether or not to intervene, the division bench ruled on Monday.
The spat between the state election commission and the opposition parties intensified after the watchdog on 9 April issued a notification ordering extension of the deadline for filing nominations by one day, only to rescind it within hours.
On 10 April, the commission revoked its notification after the state government and the Trinamool Congress questioned its decision to allow more time to file nominations saying there was no provision to do so.
The Calcutta high court issued an injunction on the reversal of the commission’s decision to extend the window, but didn’t immediately ask it to allow more time to file nominations.
Eventually on 12 April, justice Talukdar issued an interim order stalling the electoral process and asking the commission to explain what it had done to address complaints from opposition parties.
While dismissing the appeal on Monday, the division bench ordered Talukdar to expeditiously hear the matter and even consider the question of whether or not the judiciary should intervene at this stage.
The Trinamool Congress’s Banerjee said his party wouldn’t move the Supreme Court against the dismissal of its appeal and will contest it in Talukdar’s court.
Opposition parties in the state—the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM—claimed moral victory.
Separately, they had moved the Calcutta high court and the apex court alleging that their candidates were obstructed from filing nominations. All the parties have been directed to appear in the court of justice Talukdar on Tuesday and comply with his previous order.