Calcutta HC asks West Bengal Election Commission if civic polls are possible

The Calcutta High Court has directed the West Bengal State Election Commission to file an affidavit on a petition seeking postponement of elections to the four municipal corporations. COVID-19 cases across the state

Nomination papers have already been filed for the elections to the municipal bodies of Siliguri, Asansol, Chandannagar and Bidnanagar on January 22.

During the hearing of the petition on Friday by a division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Justice Kesang Doma Bhutia, the State Election Commission said that it is ready to hold elections as per schedule. The court, however, directed the SEC to file an affidavit by Monday whether it is possible to hold civic elections in the prevailing COVID situation. The court is likely to deliver its final verdict on Tuesday.

During the proceedings on Friday, Advocate General Soumendranath Mukherjee, representing the state government, said, “People are going about their business. Life doesn’t seem to stop. So why should the elections be postponed? However, the final decision in this matter will be taken by the West Bengal State Election Commission. The state is ready to provide all possible help to the commission.”

Arguing for the petitioner, advocate and CPM leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said, “In the areas of Bidhannagar Municipality alone, there are 23 containment zones. How will people come out to vote in this situation?
The bench then asked the counsel for the SEC to explain its stand in the matter. Advocate Jayant Mitra, representing the state election panel, said, “The commission is ready to conduct elections by following each and every covid protocol. It has already laid down guidelines for all political parties.”

The bench asked the commission to file the affidavit by Monday and posted the matter for next hearing on Tuesday.