Bengal panchayat polls: HC denies indepedent observer, reserves order on CBI probe

The National Human Rights Commission appointed an independent observer for the July 8 polls, while the Bengal govt petitioned against an HC-ordered CBI probe of a block development officer

Calcutta High Court (photo: IANS)
Calcutta High Court (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

The July 8 panchayat polls have had the Calcutta High Court excessively busy of late.

First, the high court rejected a proposal from the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) to appoint an independent observer for the July 8 panchayat polls in West Bengal. The verdict was recorded on the morning of 23 June, Friday, by Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya.

The NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of incidents of violence during the nomination phase of the polls, starting 15 June, and decided to depute the Commission's director general (investigation) Damodar Sarangias as the observer on June 11.

However, the West Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC) opposed the move and approached the Calcutta High Court, which ruled that the NHRC neither has the right to depute an observer, nor the right to identify 'sensitive pockets'.

Several cases have been filed against various decisions of the WBSEC since the election dates were announced on June 8. While many of the prior court orders around the polls — both from the HC and the Supreme Court — have decided against the WBSEC, including an order bringing in central forces to maintain law and order and quell violence, this is one of the few that went in the Trinamool Congress-led state government's favour.

Later on the same day, a two-judge division bench of Justice Arijit Banerjee and Justice Apurba Sinha Roy reviewed a petition against one of the earlier orders that had gone against the WB government, when a single-judge bench ordering a CBI probe into charges against a block development officer accused of tampering with the nomination documents of two CPI(M) candidates for the forthcoming polls.

The division bench reserved its order on hearing the petition filed by the West Bengal government challenging the earlier decision of the high court, and said it will pronounce its judgement on Monday, June 26. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been directed not to initiate any action until then.

The single-judge bench's order for the probe was in response to a petition from the two CPI(M) candidates, both from Uluberia in Howrah district, Kashmira Bibi and Omja Bibi. They alleged their nominations were rejected at the scrutiny phase because the local block development officer tampered with the paper. Justice Amrita Sinha of the Calcutta High Court then directed a probe by the CBI, asking the agency to submit its report to the court by July 7 (the deadline standing just a day before the polls).

While passing the order, Justice Sinha observed that since the accused was a state government official, it was desirable that a central investigating agency look into the matter.

With inputs from IANS

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