15 election petitions pending before Calcutta High Court months after West Bengal polls

BJP candidates have filed 10. TMC’s 10 pleas include one by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

Almost six months after the West Bengal Assembly polls, the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are still battling it out in the courts over the electoral outcome.

At least 15 candidates, who had lost in the polls, have approached the Calcutta High Court.

These petitions have been filed under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. While the BJP candidates have filed 10, the TMC candidates including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee are petitioners in five cases.

Ms. Banerjee had approached the Calcutta High Court after losing the Nandigram Assembly seat by a narrow margin of 1,956 votes. She filed the petition in June and the matter was assigned to Justice Kaushik Chanda. The TMC chairperson prayed that the petition be transferred to another bench. The matter is now pending before Justice Shampa Sarkar and will come up for hearing on December 1.

The other TMC candidates are Alo Rani Sarkar (Bongaon Dakshin), Sangram Kumar Doloi (Moyna), Manas Majumdar (Goghat) and Santiram Mahato (Balarmpur). All of them lost to the BJP candidates.

Similarly, 10 BJP candidates have filed petitions before the Calcutta High Court after losing to the TMC nominees. They include leaders like Jitendra Kumar Tiwari (Pandaveshwar), Kalyan Choubey (Manicktala) and Swadhin Kumar Sarkar (Baisabnagar).

Legal experts point out that the petitions can go on for months, may be for years. In 1996, Manas Ranjan Bhuniya, who was with the Congress, had filed a petition challenging the election of his opponent Makhan Lal Bangal from the Sabang Assembly seat. By the time the courts ruled in favour of Dr. Bhuniya and declared the election of Mr. Bangal void, the term of the Assembly was almost over.

Need for fast-track court

Political observer Biswanath Chakraborty said these petitions should be tried before a fast-track court. Professor Chakraborty, who heads the Department of Political Science at the Rabindra Bharati University, said such petitions also undermine the authority of the Election Commission and raise questions on its transparency.

“In West Bengal, there is an increasing tendency by political parties to approach the courts. We see the same happening in the municipal polls. In other parts of the country, we see civil society organisations approaching the courts for the rights of the people. West Bengal being an overtly political State, parties are fighting among themselves eating into the precious time of the courts,” Mr. Chakraborty said.

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