WB Panchayat Polls: Calcutta High Court dismisses petitions filed for declaring the Panchayat Polls Void

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The court was dealing with a writ petition as public interest litigation praying for issuance of a writ of mandamus to declare the West Bengal Panchayat Election, 2023 as void because of non-compliance with the basic principles of the Constitution

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday dismissed petitions seeking to declare the 2023 West Bengal panchayat election void due to violations of core constitutional and statutory norms ensuring free and fair elections.

The division bench of Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya was dealing with a writ petition as public interest litigation praying for issuance of a writ of mandamus to declare the West Bengal Panchayat Election, 2023 as void because of non-compliance of basic principles of Constitution and the statute to ensure free and fair elections; for issuance of a direction for an independent agency to investigate into the affairs of filing of nomination of candidates belonging to the ruling party in an abnormally short span of time i.e. 76000 nominations in two days including the filing of nominations by persons who are not in India.

Through the petition, the petitioner also requested the removal of the State Election Commissioner and to declare that he is incapable of conducting elections independently.

Senior advocate appearing for the petitioner submitted that in many cases the candidates were prevented from filing the nominations, a person who was in Saudi Arabia had filed a nomination, nominations are not being filled up in their entirety, and several of the persons who had filed nominations were threatened to withdraw the nominations and considering all these factors in such areas where all these illegalities have occurred, the elections have to be stalled and elections can be conducted in other places.

Senior Advocate Jishnu Saha appearing for the State Election Commission submitted that the petitioner's plea is a very belated attempt and no specific instance had been pointed out and the allegations are absolutely vague.

Advocate General representing the State argued that the principle of non-interference by the Court in the election of the 3 tire Panchayat system is on the same basis as that of parliamentary and Legislative Assembly elections as Article 243-O of the Constitution provides for a constitutional bar on similar terms as Article 329(b) of the Constitution.

He also referred to some important judgments to support his contentions.

The court while dealing with the issue of removal of the State Election Commissioner observed that it is not maintainable as the Commissioner is an independent constitutional body which had been vested with the powers of superintendence, directions and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of all elections to the panchayat in terms of Article 243K(1) of the Constitution.

The sum and substance of the grievance of the writ petitioners in both the writ petitions is with regard to the filing of nominations, threats meted out to candidates to withdraw nominations, a high number of nominations filed by the ruling party on the last two days, improper acceptance of nominations even from a person who was abroad and such other matters connected therein,” the court added.

The bench noted that the issues raised in the present petitions had already been settled in earlier matters.

The court relied on the case of West Bengal State Election Commission and Others vs Communist Party of India 2018 wherein the apex court said that if any irregularities are committed while the election is in progress and they belong to the category governed by the election law when the same must be questioned by filing an election petition before the relevant tribunal and the same should not be made the subject of the dispute before any court while the election is in progress.

The bench also relied on many other judgments to reach to its conclusion.

Accordingly, the bench dismissed the writ petitions.

Case Title: Ujjwal Trivedi and others vs. The State of West Bengal and others