Logjam over number of Bengal panchayat poll phases
The West Bengal government on Tuesday suggested a four-phase polls instead of three stages as notified earlier, but the state poll panel turned down the proposal in the Calcutta High Court.india Updated: Jun 26, 2013 10:17 IST
The West Bengal government on Tuesday suggested a four-phase polls instead of three stages as notified earlier, but the state poll panel turned down the proposal in the Calcutta High Court.
Hearing a petition moved by the election panel seeking deployment of adequate security forces for the polls, the court spent several hours spread over the morning and afternoon sessions trying to find a way out of the crisis triggered by sharp differences between the state government and the State Election Commission on the issue.
A division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi proposed in the morning that the number of stages in the elections be increased from three to five.
They asked the state government and the poll commission to discuss the matter and come back in the afternoon.
The two judges gave the proposal after the central government's counsel said it was not in a position to provide central forces for the July 2, 6 and 9 polls.
In the afternoon, the poll panel's lawyer Samaraditya Pal called the proposal to add two extra phases to the polls "totally unrealistic", saying the discussions between the two sides had broken down.
"We have not been told what forces are available and without that no phasing of the elections can be done," Pal said.
"All assurances given by the state government to provide security forces in the past have been broken," he contended.
Taking note of the "acute shortfall" of security personnel for holding the poll in nine districts July 2, as per the earlier notification, the judges said there were "sufficient reasons" to increase the number of phases.
The court said it was trying to see that the "forces available with the state government are best utilised".
The judges observed that elections could not be cancelled once the poll process had begun.
The state government then came up with a revised schedule involving the nine districts going to the polls in the first phase July 2.
It proposed that three districts in the Junglemahal region - Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore - hit by Maoist violence as also East Midnapore would go to the hustings July 2, with the remaining five districts of south Bengal holding the democratic exercise July 4.
The court directed both the state government and the election panel to come Wednesday with a district-wise break up of security forces required for holding the polls.