A division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalyo Bagchi directed that the panchayat election be held in three phases and that the poll process should be completed till July 15. The bench, hearing an appeal by the state government against a single bench order, directed that the dates for the election should be notified by the state government in consultation with the State Election Commission (SEC).
It also directed that names of remaining 134 observers, of the total of 400 asked for by the SEC, would have to be provided by the state within three days. The division bench, while not accepting the SEC's contention that 800 companies of central armed police forces were required to hold the rural poll in West Bengal, directed that the state may procure forces from other states or the Centre, if necessary.
The court said that it was up to the state government to provide armed personnel as per the SEC's requirement, which was settled today, and shortfall, if any, will be dealt by the state government. The court demarcated the 57,000-odd booths for the panchayat election into four categories -- highly sensitive, sensitive, less sensitive and normal.
It directed that two armed policemen and two unarmed constables would be provided for each booth in case of highly sensitive booths and two armed policemen only for each sensitive booth.
It also directed that under the less sensitive category, one armed policeman and one unarmed constable would be provided for each premise, which may house more than one booth. Under the normal category, one armed police personnel would be provided per premises, the bench directed.
The Commission had moved the High Court challenging the state's notification of panchayat election in two phases claiming that it was unilateral and seeking 800 companies of central forces was required for holding the panchayat elections in a free, fair and peaceful manner. Justice Somadder had on May 10 directed that panchayat election in the state be held in three phases using central armed forces on dates decided by the SEC.