Kolkata: In a major blow to the Mamata Banerjee government and the West Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC), the Panchayat elections have been postponed as the Calcutta High Court on Friday junked the three phase rural polls' schedule on May 1, 3 and 5 with the counting of votes on May 8.
In the afternoon, Justice Subrata Talukdar ordered that fresh dates have to be declared by the state poll panel in consultation with the state government after observing that it would not be possible to start the rural polls on May 1.
He also cancelled the WBSEC's notification on April 10 when the state poll panel overnight withdrew its own order extending the deadline for one day for filing of nominations by the candidates.
The judge earlier had put a stay on the order of withdrawal.
In its order of 35 pages the single bench, which had reserved its verdict till Friday afternoon following a hearing of all sides, also directed the state poll panel to issue fresh dates for filing of nominations by the candidates.
In addition, Justice Talukdar advised the WBSEC to add one day extra to the timeframe for filing of nomination.
The Trinamool, as a ruling party, its goverment and the state poll panel earlier challenged the single bench's stay on the state poll panel's flip-flop on the extension of the deadline for filing nominations. They claimed that the court could not interfere once the poll schedule is announced. But the single rejected the pleas.
Emphatic over the verdict BJP lawyer Pratap Banerjee said, "Today's verdict is historic. The judiciary took a bold step. It upheld the rule of law when the democracy is at the stake in West Bengal. We welcome the verdict. It is not only the victory of the BJP but also of the common people who love democracy. We now want to see what steps the state poll panel will take."
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury claimed, "The judge upheld our complaint that the Trinamool Congress government plotted a conspiracy to prevent the common people from participating in the elections. He directed the state poll panel to ensure that common people can cast their votes. We are indebted to him. It is a moral defeat of the Trinamool. The state poll panel is one of the constitutional bodies. Its failure has been exposed following the verdict."
Devastated by the defeat, Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee however claimed, "The court did not grant the opposition parties' demand for the deployment of the central para-military forces. It also rejected the opposition parties' ploy to postpone the rural polls."