KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court today left it to the West Bengal government and State Election Commission to decide on security requirements for panchayat election in the state, expressing hope that it would be held in a free, fair and peaceful manner.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice J Bhattacharya and Justice A Banerjee did not specify the date for holding the election, which the SEC had fixed on May 14.
A single bench had earlier said that the date of May 14 for holding the elections, as announced by the SEC, could be regarded as tentative and not final.
It had said that the division bench presided by the chief justice would decide on the date of election after the state and the SEC submit reports on security arrangements for holding the polls.
Taking note of the reports submitted on security arrangements, the division bench said that the court was not in a position to assess security and it was for the administration and SEC to decide on it.
Observing that maintenance of law and order was a state subject, the bench left it to the West Bengal government to take a call on the requirements.
It also noted that the SEC had expressed its satisfaction over the security arrangements as "adequate and satisfactory".
The bench, however, directed that if there was violence during the election and the loss of life and property was higher than in the previous panchayat election in the state in 2013, compensation would be paid to the next of kin and affected people from the salaries of responsible officers of the state.
Petitioners before the court had prayed for deployment of central forces for conducting the rural polls and had also sought compensation in case of loss of lives and destruction of property.
The state had told the court that it had enough armed forces to hold the elections and that there was no need to call in central paramilitary forces for the purpose.
In 2013 central paramilitary forces had been deployed along with state forces for holding the panchayat elections in the state.
Another division bench presided by Justice B Somadder is hearing an appeal over the SEC's decision to hold the election in a single phase, while it had earlier announced a three-phase election.
Appellants CPI(M) and PDS, both opposition parties in the state, claimed that the commission had not followed a single bench order of holding a meaningful discussion with stakeholders before announcing the date/dates for the election.