The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept the nomination of panchayat poll aspirants sent via email within the extended April 23 deadline. The court, which was hearing a CPM petition, specified that its order pertained only to the names listed in the party’s petition.
A division bench of Justices Biswanath Somadder and Arindam Mukherjee passed the order, which read, “In the backdrop of the discussions made hereinabove, we direct the State Election Commission to accept the nomination of all the candidates nominated by the appellant who have duly filed their nomination submitted the same electronically to the panchayat returning officers or the State Election Commission within 3 pm on April 23, 2018. We further direct that the names of such candidates be published in the list of candidates contesting in the panchayat elections, 2018, in respect of the constituencies for which they have filed their respective nominations.”
The CPM had filed the petition at Calcutta High Court after it had in an earlier order asked the SEC to accept the nominations of nine candidates from Bhangar in South 24 Parganas, which were sent via Whatsapp to the concerned block development officer.
Lawyer and CPM leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said, “Today, it has been established that there was an opposition in the state to file nomination for panchayat polls.” CPM leader Rabin Deb said, “Those who had filed their nominations on April 23 and lodged complaints that they be allowed to contest in the election had made an appeal to the court. We had submitted about 800 such complaints in our petition before the court. The division bench today gave a historic verdict.”
Sources in the SEC said the panel was contemplating moving the Supreme Court against the HC order.
The BJP, meanwhile, said it would file a similar petition before the High Court to demand that nominations of their candidates which were filed via email be accepted.
“BJP candidates before April 23 had filed about 2,000 nominations for panchayat elections via email. Today, we will file a petition before the court to demand that nomination of our candidates be accepted as well,” said state BJP general secretary Pratap Banerjee.
During the hearing the SEC had opposed the appellant’s plea to allow filing of nominations through email, claiming that the West Bengal Panchayat Act did not have any such provision. The CPM had submitted a list of over 800 intending candidates, claiming they were prevented from filing nominations at the designated offices. The SEC had contended the claim, saying it had received 340 complaints on the last day of filing of nominations, of which 25 were sent through email. The poll panel had also said the 25 emails contained 62 nominations of intending candidates.
Lawyer and TMC leader Kalyan Banerjee said, “The election cannot be fought by sitting in a room. It is fought in the field. But the Opposition is not willing to be in the field. They are only making speeches by sitting inside a room.”
18 seats in Birbhum no longer ‘uncontested’
Following the Calcutta High Court order to the SEC on accepting nominations of CPM workers sent via email, Birbhum zilla parishad, which was won unopposed by the Trinamool Congress, will now see a contest for 18 seats.
CPM leader Ramchandra Dom said, “It is an unprecedented verdict which has opened doors for our candidates to participate in the polls.”
Trinamool Congress Birbhum president Anubrata Mondal said, “We have already received certificates from SEC that we have won all the seats in the zilla parishad uncontested. Now, we have no idea what the legal complexities will be… But how can there be an election if we have won the seats uncontested?”