West Bengal panchayat election 2018: Nominations filed electronically get HC clearance
West Bengal panchayat election 2018: The Calcutta High Court today directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept the nominations of those candidates named by appellant CPI(M), who had filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time for the West Bengal panchayat election.
West Bengal panchayat election 2018: The Calcutta High Court today directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept the nominations of those candidates named by appellant CPI(M), who had filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time for the West Bengal panchayat election. The court said only those nominations, filed through e-mail before 3 pm on April 23 before the SEC or the panchayat returning officers, would be accepted.
A division bench of justices B Somadder and A Mukherjee further directed that the names of such candidates would be published in the list of candidates contesting in the panchayat polls, in respect of the constituencies for which they had filed nominations. Passing the order, the bench observed that the poll process itself involved participation and to shut out an intending bona fide candidate from participating in it thwarted the very basic democratic principles on which it stood.
"It was incumbent on the SEC to allow filing of nomination papers through e-mail, if the same had been received by the commission within the cut-off time on April 23, in order to dispel all criticism against it," the bench said.
It added that it was for the SEC, being a constitutional authority, to make rules in respect of filing of nomination forms through e-mail as it would invariably have prevented the large-scale violence, bloodshed and loss of human life.
It would also have eliminated hurling of accusations and counter-accusations and encouraged peaceful and wider participation, it observed.
Though filing of nominations through e-mail was not a recognised procedure under the West Bengal Panchayat Act of 2003, in a situation where allegations of obstructing candidates from filing nominations had surfaced and had also been noted by the SEC, it should have allowed the filing of papers through e-mail, the court said.
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The SEC, being a constitutional body, had to act "fairly, transparently and independently" to advance the democratic principles by allowing the intending candidates to contest, it added.
The court said when large-scale allegations regarding its independence, transparency and fairness were levelled, the poll panel should have acted with caution and diligence.
The court passed the order on an appeal filed by the CPI(M) and directed that it pertained to those candidates, whose names appeared in the list submitted by the appellant before it.
The SEC had opposed the appellant's plea to allow filing of nominations through e-mail, claiming that the West Bengal Panchayat Act did not have any such provision.
The CPI(M) had submitted before the court that many of their candidates were prevented from filing nominations by "hooligans".
The Left party had submitted a list of over 800 intending candidates, claiming that they were prevented from filing nominations at the designated offices and thus, had sent their documents to the SEC through e-mail.
The SEC had contended the claim, saying it had received 340 complaints on the last day of filing of nominations, of which 25 were sent through e-mail.
The poll panel had also said the 25 e-mails contained 62 nominations of intending candidates.
The division bench had, on May 4, in connection with another appeal, made scathing observations on the commission's neutrality and asked it to consider the observations as a "wake-up call".
The bench had observed that the SEC should conduct itself in a manner, which palpably demonstrates its paramount objective of maintaining absolute neutrality, fairness and transparency during the election process as an apolitical and neutral body.