SC expresses ‘shock’ over uncontested seats in Bengal rural polls
The court was hearing applications filed by the BJP, CPI(M) and an individual voter, seeking quashing of the elections on the grounds of large-scale violence.india Updated: Jul 03, 2018 23:43 IST
The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed shock that the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal won 42% seats unopposed in the recently concluded panchayat polls, and sought data in this regard from the state election commission.
“We can’t remain oblivious if (thousands of) seats remain uncontested,” a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed.
The court was hearing applications filed by the BJP, CPI(M) and an individual voter, seeking quashing of the elections on the grounds of large-scale violence. They also accused the ruling Trinamool government of using intimidation tactics to prevent opposition party candidates from filing their nomination papers.
The bench, also comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, gave the state election commission a day’s time to provide it with the actual number of seats that remained uncontested. The next hearing was fixed for Wednesday.
The Supreme Court also rejected the Trinamool Congress’s request to adjourn the hearing by 10 days.
Despite repeated questions from the bench, senior advocate Amarendra Sharan – the counsel for the state election commission – failed to inform the court about the exact number of seats that remained uncontested. Poll panel secretary Neelanjan Sandilya was unable to provide the statistics either.
“Why is he (the official) coming here, spending so much government money, when he doesn’t know the law,” the bench retorted. “You are the guardian in law for the conduct of the elections, and so many seats have gone uncontested.”
Reading out from the file, Justice Chandrachud noted that all the 24 seats in Birbhun district had gone uncontested. Alleging that this was the case with 42% of the total seats, lawyers for the BJP and CPI(M) contended that free-and-fair elections were essential for maintaining the purity of the democratic process.
The counsel for the Trinamool Congress claimed that the state election commission had hardly received 1,388 complaints in connection with the polls. “This indicates that the elections were held in a free and fair manner,” they added.
First Published: Jul 03, 2018 21:52 IST