HC orders interim stay on order cancelling extension of WB nomination filing dates

Calcutta HC asked all concerned parties to file their affidavits while scheduling the matter for hearing on Wednesday.

Kolkata: In a major blow to the West Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC), the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday ordered an interim stay on the state poll panel's overnight withdrawal of its own order extending the last date from April 9 till April 10 for filing nominations by the candidates for the Panchayat elections.

However the high court has directed the WBSEC to take a decision on extending the last date of filing nominations in question of whether the deadline would be extended or not. It asked all concerned parties to file their affidavits while scheduling the matter for hearing on Wednesday.

BJP leader Pratap Banerjee who filed the case at the high court said, "The high court issued an interim stay on the state poll panel's withdrawal of its order extending the last date of filing nominations. It directed the WBSEC to look into the grievances of those failing to file their nominations so that they can contest the polls." He added he would pray to the high court on Wednesday to extend the last date.

On the high court's order, Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee however argued, "It is not shocking at all. The high court has not asked the WBSEC to extend the last date. Even though the stay was ordered, it is infructuous because the order came after 3 pm within which the nominations had to be filed."

Later, WBSEC chief Amarendra Kumar Singh held a meeting with the state poll panel's officials during which the possibility of extending the last date again was ruled out since the date of scrutiny of the candidates' nominations is scheduled on Wednesday, sources claimed.

The dramatic twist over the rural polls unfolded after the state BJP moved the high court and at the Supreme Court against the WBSEC's withdrawal of its own order in an unprecedented move in the morning citing "legal infirmities" within following two objections by the Mamata Banerjee government and the Trinamool as a ruling party.

After the process of filing of nominations was over by 3 pm on Monday, Singh at night issued the order extending the deadline till Tuesday from 11 am to 3 pm following the Supreme Court's direction to the state poll panel to "pass any appropriate order" so that those who failed to file their nominations could contest the polls.

Within 24 hours, Singh on Tuesday morning took a U-turn issuing a fresh notification recalling Monday's order in which, he stated, a special secretary of the state government and Banerjee pointed out the "legal infirmities." He noted, " appears that there was no specific direction by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India for extension of nomination date."

Lashing out at the Trinamool, the opposition parties claimed that Singh was forced to cancel its order under the ruling party's pressure. They also agitated outside the state poll panel's office. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh alleged, "We had anticipated it because Singh took long time to issue the order. He had a good night-long treatment."

He added, "That is why he cancelled the order. It is a concern and funny also that he has not resigned so far. His predecessor resigned. I do not know if he would be able continue in his post till the polls are over. He was forced to withdraw the previous order. We learnt that the ministers taught him a lesson. Trinamool can stoop to any low."

CPI(M) MLA Sujan Chakraborty complained, "In the morning four Trinamool ministers met Singh at his residence on Iron Side Road in Ballygunge before the order was cancelled. Who asked them to visit him at home? What was their purpose? The four ministers threatened him."

He claimed, "The withdrawal of the order is the follow-up action after the chief minister expressed her anguish over the order at night. The state poll panel does not have its independence." Countering the opposition Banerjee said, "Had the state poll panel not withdrawn its order, it would have committed an offence."

He added, "In that case I would have levelled the contempt of court charge against it because the Supreme Court nowhere in its order spoke about the extension of last date for filing of nominations. That is why I sent a mail to the state poll panel at 11:46 pm on Monday against its order which was issued under an opposition leader's pressure."

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