Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Monday said petitions regarding panchayat polls in West Bengal will be heard by a single bench that stayed the election process. The single bench is scheduled to hear the petitions by the opposition parties as well as by the State Election Commission and ruling Trinamool Congress on Tuesday.
Noting that it was not unmindful of the expiry of the present panchayat in August and the necessity of completing the process by then, a division bench said that it, however, does not want to interfere in an “intra-court matter” at this stage and directed that the petitions be heard before the single bench.
The division bench comprising justices B Somadder and A Mukherjee said the question of maintainability of the petition by the BJP would be decided by the court of Justice Subrata Talukdar, who stayed the election process on March 12 and fixed the hearing in the case for Monday.
Justice Talukdar today extended the stay till the next hearing, which he fixed for tomorrow at 2 pm in view of the appeal being heard by the division bench.
The SEC submitted a report before Justice Talukdar as was directed by him earlier.
The division bench also said that the single bench will conclude the hearing in the matter as expeditiously as possible.
The SEC and the Trinamool Congress had moved the appeal before the division bench, challenging the stay on the election process and on the maintainability of BJP’s petition.
Appearing in-person owing to an ongoing ceasework by lawyers at the high court, SEC secretary Nilanjan Shandilya and TMC vice-president Kalyan Banerjee questioned the maintainability of the petition when an election process was on.
Claiming that the single bench’s observation that the petition was “maintainable at this stage” was erroneous, Banerjee, a TMC Lok Sabha MP and a lawyer by profession, submitted that maintainability of a petition could not depend on any given stage.
Staying the election process on April 12, Justice Talukdar had directed the SEC to file a comprehensive status report on the poll process, detailing the number of nominations filed and the percentage of nominations rejected, among other information.
Justice Talukdar had said he would today hear the pleas challenging the SEC’s decision to withdraw its April 9 notification, which had extended the date for filing nominations by a day.
The judge had earlier stayed the withdrawal of the notification, directing the state poll panel to treat its order of cancellation as kept in abeyance.
Panchayat elections in the state were to be held in three phases from May 1 to May 5, and the counting of votes was scheduled on May 8.
The nomination process for the panchayat polls ended on April 9, but had been extended by a day by the SEC, which later withdrew the notification.
Challenging the withdrawal, the BJP had moved the high court.
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday directed the BJP, which had also moved the top court of the country, to approach the Calcutta High Court with its grievances over the deadline for filing of nominations for the panchayat polls in West Bengal.
The BJP today told the court of Justice Talukdar that it has deposited an amount of Rs 5 lakh which the court had imposed on the party as cost for misrepresentation.
Justice Talukdar had held that the BJP moved both the high court and the Supreme Court on similar pleas and imposed the cost.
Apart from the BJP, the CPI(M) and the Congress, too, have moved the high court separately, challenging the SEC’s decision.