Calcutta HC seeks SEC, govt response on central forces for civic polls

The Calcutta High Court Monday asked the West Bengal State Election Commission and the state government about the security arrangements being made ahead of the civic elections in Bidhannagar, Asansol, Chandannagar and Siliguri, and sought their response about the deployment of central forces.

A division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Rajarshi Bharadwaj gave the order after hearing two petitions demanding the deployment of central forces in the state during the polls. Polls for municipal corporations of Bidhannagar, Siliguri, Asansol and Chandernagar are scheduled to be held on February 12 and the results will be declared on February 14. The court also directed the SEC and the state government to submit their responses by Wednesday.

One of the petitions was filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pratap Bandyopadhyay ahead of the civic polls in Bidhannagar. The petitioner informed the court that the Bidhannagar civic body goes to poll on February 12. The petition stated that massive violence was being reported in areas like Newtown, Narayanpur and Mahishbathan since Sunday night and that the petitioner had approached the court to demand deployment of central forces to ensure peaceful voting in Bidhannagar. The petitioner also levelled allegations against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).

The petitions were filed on Monday, but given the seriousness of the case the court had fixed the date of hearing on the same day.

The SEC had earlier said that the security for the civic polls in Bidhannagar, Siliguri and Chandannagar would be handled by the state police.

Advocate Bilwadal Bhattacharya, who was representing Bandyopadhyay, told the court, “The Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections had shown what the situation would be like if the elections were held under the state police. People cannot exercise their own democratic rights just because of lack of security. Therefore, central forces should be deployed during the civic elections so that the confidence of the voters can be gained.”

Apart from Bandyopadhyay, a voter from Bidhannagar, Chhabi Basu, had also filed a petition to demand the deployment of central forces during the election. Advocate Srijib Chakraborty, who was representing the petitioner, said, “In 2015, there was a huge disturbance in the Bidhannagar civic election. But in the 2016 Assembly elections, there was no unrest or disturbance due to the election being held by the central forces.” After hearing the petitioners, the bench wanted to know what steps the state government and the SEC have taken to ensure security during the Bidhannagar civic polls. They have been directed to submit security details for Bidhannagar, Asansol, Siliguri and Chandannagar civic polls by Wednesday.     

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