The Supreme Court on Friday said there will be no re-election for over 20,000 panchayat seats in West Bengal that were won uncontested by the ruling Trinamool Congress in May. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had sought cancellation of the polls.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar allowed the West Bengal State Election Commission to notify the winning candidates from the uncontested seats, reported News18. However, the bench observed that a large number of seats going uncontested was a “grim situation”, and allowed the candidates in the uncontested seats to file election petitions challenging the result within 30 days.
Under Article 142 of the Constitution, the bench exercised its extraordinary power and said that the limitation period of 30 days for filing the election petitions will start from the date of notification of the results, reported PTI.
In May, the Supreme Court had expressed concern over the Trinamool Congress winning 34% of the uncontested seats after Opposition parties claimed they were not being allowed to file their nominations. As per the data released by the State Election Commission, 20,076 of the 58,692 seats were uncontested. The Trinamool Congress won 16,814 of the 48,650 gram panchayat seats and 3,059 of the 9,217 panchayat samiti seats uncontested. It showed that most of the seats where the ruling party won unchallenged were in the districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Murshidabad, and South 24 Parganas, reported the Hindustan Times.
The Supreme Court also set aside an order of the Calcutta High Court that directed the State Election Commission to accept nominations filed online for the West Bengal panchayat polls in May, reported LiveLaw. “The High Court was in error while allowing the filing of nomination papers through electronic forms,” said the top court bench. “No such process is either mentioned nor allowed under the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act.”
The CPI(M) had approached the High Court against the State Election Commission after it rejected the nominations by its workers that were filed online. The party had earlier accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of preventing its candidates from filing their nominations in person. The polls had led to violent clashes in the state, which claimed at least 12 lives and injured many others.
Victory of democracy, says Trinamool Congress
The Trinamool Congress on Friday welcomed the verdict, and said that the party was very happy with it. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described the verdict as a “victory of democracy and of people”.
Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said it was a historic verdict, which should be a big lesson for Opposition parties. “It has been proved that their allegations are baseless,” he said. “They should apologise to the people of the state.”
The West Bengal BJP unit accepted the court’s verdict. “We will fight against the Trinamool democratically in the next Lok Sabha elections,” said state unit president Dilip Ghosh. “The people of the state will have the last word.”