Central forces essential for Bengal polls, says court

Kolkata, June 24: Expressing concern over violence ahead of the panchayat polls in West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court Monday said the deployment of central forces was essential for the elections which could not be cancelled.

The division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi said: "Election related violence is indeed taking place in some parts of the state. In the context of that, the (deployment of) central forces (for the polls) are essential."

The judges' observation came during the hearing on an application filed by the State Election Commission (SEC) seeking adequate security measures for the polls slated for July 2, 6 and 9.

The court gave the central government a day's time to reconsider its inability to provide security personnel for the polls.

"We cannot shut our eyes over the requirement of the security forces, especially when violent incidents in the wake of the polls are being reported in the state," the court said.

The central government, citing "overstretched deployment" especially in the wake of the Uttarakhand calamity, told the court it was not possible to provide its security forces as sought by the state government.

The court said: "You (centre) have been providing forces (to the states) from time to time. We appreciate there are some exigencies now, but then they are expected to arise."

The judges rapped the state government for admitting to a "large shortfall" of security forces for the polls.

"When you don't have the requisite number of security forces, what compelled you to notify the (poll) dates? What is the way out? The polls cannot be cancelled," the court said.

The SEC counsel, citing a home ministry report, said the central government earlier provided central forces for panchayat polls in Andhra Pradesh.

"Why can't (it) do the same (for) Bengal?" the court asked the central government's counsel, who said this was done in view of the Telangana issue.

The court asked the state government if it was possible for it to compel the central government to provide the security forces.

With the poll panel adamant on conducting the polls only if adequate security forces were available, West Bengal Advocate General Bimal Chatterjee accused it of "not willing to conduct the polls at all".

Observing that conducting the panchayat polls was a constitutional obligation, the court asked the stakeholders to explore avenues to resolve the impasse.

"What is the way out? Compensating the security shortfall? Amending the poll schedule? The parties will have to address the court on a solution," observed the court.

The matter will next come up for hearing Tuesday.

While the opposition Left Front and Congress have claimed widespread poll related violence resulting in death of partymen, police have admitted to at least 10 killings.


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