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822 companies of central forces for West Bengal Panchayat polls, SEC tells Calcutta High Court

The State Election Commission (SEC) on Friday (June 23) told the Calcutta High Court that a total of 822 companies of central forces have been requisitioned for the July 8 panchayat polls in West Bengal.

Ashesh Mallick Edited By: Ashesh Mallick Kolkata Published on: June 23, 2023 19:52 IST
Army, Central forces, West Bengal
Image Source : FILE (REPRESENTATIVE) 822 companies of central forces for Bengal rural polls

West Bengal Panchayat polls: The State Election Commission (SEC) on Friday (June 23) told the Calcutta High Court that a total of 822 companies of central forces have been requisitioned for the July 8 panchayat polls in West Bengal, including 485 companies which were besides the 337 companies already asked for.

A division bench presided by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam, which was hearing a contempt petition that the high court's orders were disobeyed willingly by the SEC, directed the commission to file an affidavit informing if it has complied with the court’s orders regarding holding free and fair panchayat polls.

The commission’s counsel Kishore Dutta submitted that the SEC has sought 485 companies of the central forces from the Union Home Ministry in a letter besides requisition already sent for 315 and 22 companies. The tally shoots up to 822 companies.

Court’s directions

The Court had directed the SEC on June 21 for the requisition of over 82,000 central forces personnel deployed during the 2013 panchayat polls, keeping in view the increase in the number of districts from 17 in 2013 to 22 currently.

The commission had requisitioned 22 companies of central forces for 22 districts after the Supreme Court had dismissed its appeal against the High Court’s order of June 15 directing the commission to deploy central forces in all districts of the state.

The High Court on June 13 directed the deployment of central forces in the areas which were marked sensitive by the commission.

Observing that the orders of the court had not been complied with, the high court on June 21 directed the commission to requisition more than 82,000 central forces personnel within 24 hours.

What commission’s counsel said

Dutta claimed that there has been no willful delay in complying with the court orders, and prayed that the contempt proceedings against the SEC be dropped. The bench directed the commission to submit an affidavit by June 27 and said that it would hear the matter on June 28.

The bench pointed out that in a PIL it was claimed that 273 seats in Canning I block of South 24 Parganas remain uncontested and voters moved court saying that they have a right to choose and a prospective candidate cannot be prevented from filing the nomination, alleging that the SEC has not taken any proactive step in this regard.

The court directed the SEC to file its response on the issue in the affidavit.

It was also claimed by the petitioner that more than 20,000 candidates in the state have withdrawn their candidature after having filed nomination, which according to him is unusually high. There are around 73,000 seats for the three-tier rural polls.

(With PTI inputs)

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