There is a Constitutional mandate to hold elections and they should not be postponed, says Court

The Calcutta High Court rejected on Monday the West Bengal government’s appeal to stay an earlier verdict by a single bench on holding rural polls in 17 districts but observed that hearing on the matter cannot continue for months on end.

There is a Constitutional mandate to hold elections and they should not be postponed, said the division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi.

The Court asked both the State government and State Election Commission (SEC) to conclude their arguments on Tuesday when the matter will come up hearing again.

The State government had approached the division bench after Justice Biswanath Somadder ruled in the favour of the SEC on May 10 and directed that the rural polls be held in three phases with the deployment of security forces to the election panel’s satisfaction.

Appearing for the State, Advocate General Bimal Chatterjee contested the election panel’s demand for the deployment of 800 companies of Central armed police forces without any critical assessment of the polling booths.

The Court observed that the election panel cannot apply a “straight-jacked formula” for all polling booths and demand two armed police personnel to be present at every booth.

Asking the Commission to consider the sensitivity of polling booths, the Court told it “to apply” its mind to the arrangements made for conducting panchayat elections in 2003 and 2008.

“We are interested in the deployment of police forces, not the breed of the police forces,” the Court said, adding that the dispute between the State government and the Commission is over the shortfall in availability of the forces required.

Appearing for the election panel, senior counsel Samaraditya Pal said the single bench last week had upheld the Commission’s pivotal role in holding the rural polls.