Calcutta. The High Court in Calcutta on Wednesday ordered the State Election Commission (SEC) of West Bengal to requisition more than 82,000 central forces within 24 hours for deployment in the panchayat polls. A divisive bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Uday Kumar, while hearing a contempt motion, also reprimanded state election commissioner Rajeev Sinha and said if it was difficult for him to comply at the ordinance, he could resign. Former Chief Secretary of State, Rajeev Sinha is currently the State Elections Commissioner.
The court noted that the SEC had only sought 22 Central Force companies for the proposed panchayat elections on July 8, representing a tiny fraction of the 82,000 Central Police personnel deployed in the panchayat elections of 2013 in the state. The petitioner’s lawyer argued that a company consists of 80 workers, so the total number of workers sought is around 1,700, which the court described as “manifestly insufficient”. The court also noted that the number of districts in West Bengal was 17 in 2013, which has increased to 22 at present, and the number of voters has also increased over these 10 years. The court ordered the SEC to requisition more than 82,000 central forces in 24 hours.
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The bench said at the hearing: ‘If it is very difficult for the (elections) commissioner to enforce the order, he can leave his post. His Excellency the Governor can probably appoint someone else in his place. The court said the SEC is a neutral body and does not need to follow anyone’s instructions. The bench said it was very unfortunate that no responsible SEC officer was present in court for Wednesday’s hearing as well.
A visibly upset chief justice said if the SEC was so busy it couldn’t give instructions to its lead attorneys, “it would be best if they closed the office.” The court ordered that the number of central forces companies to be searched be greater than that of the 2013 elections.
The court said any attempt to make the order unenforceable could have adverse consequences. The SEC lawyer argued that whatever the court deemed sufficient would be immediately demanded of the central government. The SEC attorney said he was instructed to immediately send directions to the Center for anything the court deems sufficient with respect to the Central Forces. The contempt motion alleged willful disobedience to court orders regarding the deployment of central forces for panchayat elections. On June 13, the High Court had ordered the SEC to seek out central forces to deploy to districts deemed sensitive and to assess the situation and deploy to other districts accordingly.
Expressing its dissatisfaction with the delay in the execution of the previous order, the court had ordered on June 15 the deployment of the central forces in all the districts. The SEC and the state government had moved the Supreme Court against the High Court orders, but the Supreme Court rejected their pleas. Hearing the contempt motion, the High Court said: ‘We have no hesitation in saying that the order and the direction were not followed in letter and spirit.’
Tags: high court in calcutta, West Bengal, West Bengal election
FIRST POST: June 21, 2023, 5:57 PM HST