WB panchayat polls: SC to hear state EC's plea at 2 PM

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Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, who was in Kolkata on Wednesday to inaugurate four new galleries - Invertebrate, Mammal, Ecosystem and Botanical - at the Indian Museum, referred to the forthcoming three-tier Panchayat polls in West Bengal and said that the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the state government were out to fool the people of Bengal but they would not be able to do so all the time.

The high court had on May 8, directed the State Election Commission to accept e-nominations papers filed by the candidate within the stipulated time.

The Supreme Court today stayed the Calcutta High Court order asking the West Bengal State Election Commission to accept nomination papers filed through e-mail for contesting the panchayat elections in the state. A division bench of justices B Somadder and A Mukherjee concluded its hearing on opposition CPI (M)'s appeal to allow filing of nominations by candidates, who were unable to do so for various reasons, through e-mail.

The issue is whether nomination papers can be submitted electronically. The BJP soon claimed it also had about 2000 such nominations saying it would also move the Court on similar grounds.

However, the SC expressed concern about almost 20,000 panchayat seats going to the ruling Trinamool Congress without a contest and asked the SEC to not issue a notification declaring these results till July 3. "This is risky for democracy and will be fought firmly", Suryakanto Mishra State CPI (M) secretary said.

File image of the Supreme Court of India.

The SEC submitted before the court that it has received 25 e-mails containing nomination of 62 intending candidates nominated by the appellant-party.

The SEC counsel opposed the prayer, saying the West Bengal Panchayat Act did not envisage electronic filing and according to it, either the candidate or the proposer would have to file the nomination by being physically present at the designated office. Passing the order, the court observed that the poll process itself involved participation and to shut out an intending bona fide candidate from participating thwarted the very basic democratic principles on which it stood.

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