Calcutta high court supported the State Election Commission (SEC) in its fight against the Mamata Banerjee government upholding the poll panel's demands for central paramilitary forces to provide security cover and ordering a three-phase poll.
SEC has to announce the dates by Saturday, the court has ordered. Earlier, the government said it had the powers to announce the dates. The polls have to be held in June.
The court supported the demand for the SEC to hold the elections with security cover by the central paramilitary forces. It has also said the government has to ensure the funding of the forces.
Incidentally, article 241(k) of the Constitution holds up the primacy of the SEC in deciding when and how to conduct elections. However, the West Bengal panchayat poll legislation empowered the government to announce the dates in consultation with the SEC.
Lawyers have been arguing that Supreme Court verdicts on this issue uphold the primacy of the SEC in deciding polls at the panchayat and urban local body levels.
Incidentally, SEC dragged the government to the court on April 1.
It may be recalled that the SEC had dragged the state government to the Calcutta high court on April 1 to resolve the deadlock over the rural polls.
While the SEC had been demanding a three-phase poll under the surveillance of central armed forces, the state was adamant on a two phase-poll with only state police force.
The state had been initially demanding a one-phase poll in December and January which the SEC turned down for several reasons such as revision of electoral rolls. Thereafter came the board exams. The state then toned down and demanded a two phase poll. On March 22 it unilaterally came up with two dates - April 26 and April 30.
"In a nutshell there were four sticking issues which had led to the deadlock - deployment of forces, poll observers, phasing of elections and the funding. We had also challenged section 42 of the West Bengal Panchayat Election Act 2003 taking advantage of which the state government had unilaterally decided upon the dates," said a senior officer of the SEC.