Mamata govt dragged to court over Bengal panchayat poll date

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Kolkata, April 1: While the Mamata government takes refuge behind the ambiguous law, the West Bengal Election Commission on Monday moved the Calcutta High Court seeking rejection of the panchayat election date notified by the state government.

Article 42 of West Bengal Panchayat Act says state can fix the poll dates. Article 43 of the same Act says if state election commission has objection the schedule, it should initiate consultation with state government.

The Election Commission approached the court of Justice Biswanath Samaddar, who directed counsel LC Bihani to get the petition listed before it can be taken up.

The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government has been engaged in a war of words and letters with the election panel over the scheduling of the dates and deployment of central paramilitary forces.

On March 22, the government had announced two-phase polls (April 26 and April 30), under the supervision of the state police personnel.

This ran counter to the commission's suggestion of a three-stage poll and deployment of central paramilitary troopers.

The commission has been asking for 800 companies of central paramilitary troopers, but the government has indicated its willingness to only rope in police personnel from neighbouring states.

Meanwhile, the Bahratiya Janata Party (BJP) also filed a separate appeal in the High court on poll dates.

While poll panel's appeal has sought dismissal of state government notification on Panchayat poll, BJP in its plea has asked fundamental question and appealed to struck down the rule in the West Bengal Panchayat Act that empowered the government to fix the dates.

"Article 42 of Panchayat Act says state can fix the poll dates. Article 43 of the same Act says if state election commission has objection the schedule, it should initiate consultation with state government. Although these articles talk about consultation with state election commission, it is not clear."

"The current government is shielding behind the faulty Act. We have filed a separate appeal asking this section of the ACt to be declared unconstitutional," West Bengal state BJP president Rahul Sinha said.

The Congress too may rally behind the State Election Commission in its legal battle. "We are studying the state election commission's appeal. We are discussing in the party whether we should join the petition," state Congress leader Arunava Ghosh said.

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