KOLKATA: A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Monday returned the petition demanding extension of the last date for filing of nominations for the West Bengal panchayat elections to a single bench, casting doubt over the election taking place in the first week of May.
The division bench of Justice Biswanath Samaddar and Justice Arindam Mukherjee requested the single bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar to give a judgment as soon as possible and hold hearings every day, if necessary. He will hear the case on Tuesday afternoon. On April 12, Justice Talukdar had stayed election proceedings until April 16, and he extended the stay by a day on Monday.
The division bench sought to know from the appellants, TMC lawyer and MP Kalyan Banerjee and the State Election Commission secretary, Nilanjan Shandilya, why they had approached the division bench when the case was pending with the single bench. To this, Banerjee and Shandilya contended the petition was not maintainable as the election process had already begun.
The division bench said the single bench would decide whether the petition was maintainable or not. While Banerjee told the media that he will argue on Tuesday that the petition was not maintainable, the Opposition claimed Monday’s judgment as a “moral victory”.
“We don’t want to disrupt the election date but want nominations to be free and fair. This is not only BJP’s victory but that of democracy-loving people of the state,” BJP petitioner Pratap Banerjee said. BJP leader Mukul Roy hailed the judgment as the “beginning of end of Mamata Banerjee’s rule in West Bengal”.
Opposition lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya expressed doubt about the elections being held on time. “I believe it is impossible to conduct elections on May 1, 3 and 5 as the first step of filing nominations is now under question,” he said.