The Supreme Court’s order on Friday on the panchayat elections in West Bengal has vindicated the stand of the State Election Commission in its legal tussle with the Trinamool Congress government over the past few weeks revolving primarily around the deployment of security forces.
For a State government that has been vehemently opposed to the idea of inducting the Central armed police for the elections — despite a belated request to the Centre — and disinclined to stretch the polls to five phases, having once spoken of a single phase and later agreeable to four, the ruling comes as somewhat of a setback.
The apex court’s directive that the Central forces will be made available to meet the shortfall in security required for each of the phases comes at a time when the State government has been insisting that such forces were not necessary, as those at its disposal were ample to meet the security requirements.
The Opposition parties in the State, however, despite being wide apart in the political spectrum, have been one in their contention that the ruling party was against the deployment of Central forces as that would bring about a semblance of fair play in the polls, considering that a section of the State police was anything but non-partisan.
Distinctly displeased with the stand of the State Election Commission for its non-compromising stand on matters of security the Trinamool Congress leadership has even charged it of being in a “conspiracy” with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress to scuttle the panchayat elections.
Not just has the Supreme Court’s order drawn the curtains on weeks of legal wrangling at least on this count in the Calcutta High Court, it has also reasserted the primacy of the State Election Commission when it comes to matters related to the holding of panchayat elections – a matter of note to all State governments.
Speaking to The Hindu over the telephone from New Delhi shortly after the apex court’s ruling Samaraditya Pal, counsel of the State Election Commission said that “it had clearly overruled the State government’s vehement opposition to the idea of the Central armed police entering the State for the polls.”
“No more is it a question of the State government making a request for Central forces… It is a direct order by the Supreme Court for their deployment, one that is specific in regard to the quantum of Central armed police required,” he said.
As for his reactions to the order, Mr. Pal said: “It is a victory for the Constitution though the Constitution does not need a victory as it is the supreme law of the land. The point is that some persons tried to subvert it leading to this kind of litigation.”