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25 Apr 2018

HC tells poll panel to 'allay' safety worries

TT, Calcutta: A single-judge bench of Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the Bengal election commission to "allay the grievances" of Opposition parties on security "in every phase of the (panchayat) election process".

Justice Subrata Talukdar said the commission "was the sole authority in decisions regarding deployment of forces to make the poll process free and fair".

"But the Supreme Court, in its order on April 11, had clearly asked the poll panel to allay the grievances of all the political parties.

"Since the parties have some apprehension about the peaceful conduct of the election due lack of proper security measures, this court is directing it to take all possible steps in this regard," the judge told poll panel secretary Nilanjan Sandilya.

The official was present during the hearing.

Justice Talukdar asked the panel to inform the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya about the steps taken.

This followed concerns over security expressed by the four "stakeholders" - the BJP, CPM, Congress and the PDS.

The matter was referred to the division bench as it has already taken up a poll-related case in which the Murshidabad SP and two other officers have been asked why contempt action should not be started against them for failing to provide enough security to prospective Congress candidates during nominations. The officers have been given four weeks to reply.

"Since the division bench had already issued a contempt rule in a poll-related matter, this court feels it fit to ask the SEC (the poll panel) to report before the said (division) bench about the security measures it was taking in the poll process," Justice Talukdar said.

The division bench had issued the notice on April 19 on a complaint by Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury that the officers did not provide security to his party's nominees despite orders from the court.

A court official said later that Chowdhury's contempt case would come up before the division bench next on May 4.

On Tuesday, PDS chief Samir Putatunda told the bench of Justice Talukdar that free and fair polls were not possible without proper security measures.

Before Putatunda, BJP representative Pratap Banerjee, CPM counsel Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya and Congress's Ritzu Ghosal had cited Monday's alleged atrocities by Trinamul supporters and sought a directive for deployment of central forces in the rural polls.

CPM counsel Bhattacharyya produced newspaper clippings and described how Opposition candidates trying submit nominations on Monday were attacked and intimidated by Trinamul activists.

Bhattacharrya requested Justice Talukdar to issue suo motu contempt notices against the election commission.

The judge, however, asked Bhattacharyya to file an application describing his contentions on Wednesday.

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