NEW DELHI: The flip-flop of West Bengal State Election Commission in first extending the deadline for filing of nominations for the panchayat polls and taking the decision back the next very day, today came under the scanner of the Supreme Court which questioned the rationale behind such a retreat.
The top court also said it would pass an order on the issue on August 6 after hearing the matter when the state poll panel urged it to allow declaration of the results of the elections held in phases in May.
The state poll panel on the night of April 9 had taken note of several complaints that many intending candidates could not file their nomination papers as either they or their proposers were "obstructed" from submitting them and extended the deadline till 3 PM next day.
However, it cancelled the order the next morning.
"Why did you (state poll panel) first extended the deadline for filing the nomination papers and later took back the decision," a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the state.
The bench said the deadline was extended after poll panel received complaints regarding obstructions in filing of nomination papers and asked whether it had conducted any inquiry before cancelling the decision on extension of time.
"Did you (poll panel) make an enquiry about the situation at the ground level before taking back the decision (extending time to file nomination papers)," the bench asked.
Senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi and Amrendra Sharan, appearing for the state poll panel WBSEC, urged the court to consider allowing it to declare the results on seats of panchayat polls which were duly contested.
To this, the bench said it would pass order after hearing the matter on August 6.
The apex court had earlier expressed shock at the fact that "thousands and thousands" of seats in the recent polls had remained uncontested, observing that these figures showed that grass root-level democracy was not working.
"We cannot remain oblivious of this fact that such a huge number of seats were uncontested in panchayat elections in the state. What is puzzling us is that of 48,000-gram panchayat seats, more than 16,000 go uncontested," it had said.
Elections were held in phases for 48,650 posts in Gram Panchayats, 825 posts in Zilla Parishads and 9,217 posts in Panchayat Samitis and it has been alleged that around 34 per cent seats were uncontested.
Out of a total 58,692 posts for gram panchayat village, zilla parishad and panchayat samiti, 20,159 of them had remained uncontested in the violence-marred local polls in the state held in May this year.
Prior to this, the apex court had stayed the Calcutta High Court order asking the state election body to accept the nomination papers filed through e-mail for panchayat elections and directed the poll panel not to declare in the gazette the names of those candidates who had won unopposed.
The bench, however, had then refused to stay the poll process observing that there were a plethora of judgements which have held that once the poll process has begun, it cannot be interfered into by any court.
The counsel for CPI(M) and the BJP had alleged that several of their candidates were not allowed to file nomination papers, which had led to about 34 per cent of the candidates belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress, winning unopposed.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the state election panel against the High Court order asking it to accept the nomination papers filed through e-mail for the panchayat elections.
The CPI(M) had said that many of its candidates were prevented from filing nominations by the state's ruling Trinamool Congress.