HC: Deploy over 82k central force personnel for rural polls

It was in 2013 when Bengal rural polls were held last time under the watch of CAPF, following a face-off between the state government and then SEC headed by Mira Pandey.

Published: 22nd June 2023 09:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd June 2023 09:20 AM   |  A+A-

Police and RAF personnel at the site where violence broke out last week at Bhangar, in South 24-Parganas, in West Bengal on Wednesday | pti

Express News Service

KOLKATA: A day after suffering a setback in the Supreme Court, the State Election Commission (SEC) faced another jolt as the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday ordered it to deploy more than 82,000 central armed paramilitary forces (CAPF) personnel for the upcoming rural polls in West Bengal.

A division bench, presided by chief justice T S Sivagnanam, directed the SEC to put in a requisition for the central force within 24 hours. It was in 2013 when Bengal rural polls were held last time under the watch of CAPF, following a face-off between the state government and then SEC headed by Mira Pandey. She was in favour of conducting the panchayat elections involving central force, but the state government moved the court challenging the state poll panel decision which was not entertained.

Noting that the number of districts in Bengal has increased from 17 in 2013 to 22 now and also the number of electorates has increased in the last 10 years, the high court asked the poll panel to deploy 82,000 or more than that of CAPF personnel.

While passing the verdict specifying the volume of CAPF to be engaged in the rural polls, the division bench also observed that if the state election commissioner Rajeeva Sinha fails to comply with the court’s order, he should quit.

On Tuesday, the apex court upheld the Calcutta High Court’s order to deploy CAPF in all the districts across Bengal for the upcoming rural polls after the state poll panel submitted a petition challenging the lower court’s verdict.

Shortly after the apex court’s verdict, the SEC requisitioned 22 companies of CAPF for 22 districts for the rural polls which will be held for 73,897 seats comprising 63,239-gram panchayats, 9,730 panchayat samities and 928 zillaparishad seats.

There are 61,636 polling booths where Bengal’s 5.67 crore electorates will exercise their franchise in the rural polls. The opposition parties raised questions on the intent of the poll panel alleging how only 22 companies of CAPF comprising 2,200 personnel will conduct the rural polls.

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