HC asks WB govt, SEC to file response on central force’s allegation of non-cooperation

Kolkata: Holding that allegations made by the central force coordinator for West Bengal panchayat elections about alleged non-cooperation by the SEC and the state government are very serious, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed them to file their response on the averments made by the IG of BSF.

The BSF IG, who is the central force coordinator, in a report before the court alleged non-cooperation on the part of the State Election Commission (SEC) and the state government.

The court said that on perusal of the report by the force coordinator, the allegations are found to be very serious, particularly against the SEC.

The division bench, presided by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam, noted that the report has said that the support and response of the SEC and the state authorities have been found wanting on a number of occasions.

“If the allegations set out in the report ultimately turn out to be true, then it would be tantamount to a clear case of wilful disobedience of the order and direction issued by this court,” the bench said in its prima facie observation.

It was hearing contempt petitions alleging that the SEC had not implemented the high court’s orders regarding the deployment of central forces and ensuring free and fair elections.

The court had on July 4 directed the deployment of central forces in all polling booths in the state.

The high court had on June 21 directed the SEC to requisition more than 82,000 central forces personnel for deployment in panchayat elections, which would be more than what was deployed during the 2013 rural polls in the state.

The court said on Wednesday that it will take a decision after the SEC files its response to the report by the force coordinator.

The bench directed the SEC and the state government to file their response through separate affidavits by July 24. The matter will be heard again on July 26.

The state government was also directed to file its response on the allegations of non-cooperation on its part as stated in the report.

The additional solicitor general, appearing for the central government, submitted that clear instructions were not given by the administration to the force coordinator with regard to deployment.

The bench, also comprising Justice Uday Kumar, directed the West Bengal chief secretary to hold a meeting with the BSF IG, the state DGP, the ADG (Law and Order), the home secretary and other officers as may be required to take policy decisions on the deployment of central forces for 10 days in the aftermath of the panchayat polls.

It directed that the BSF IG, who is the force coordinator of central forces, can be accompanied by as many officers as he may desire to participate in such meetings.

It was also submitted by ASG Ashok Chakraborty that basic facilities for the forces deployed were grossly lacking.

Advocate General S N Mookherjee, representing the state, submitted that the court may direct form a team of top officers who can sit and take decisions so that all these issues flagged can be sorted out.

Directing that policy-level decisions will be taken at such meetings of the top officers, the court said that the chief secretary and the DGP will ensure that those decisions are strictly implemented.

The court directed that the district administrations and the police will extend all cooperation and implement the decisions.

It said that nodal officers appointed by the SEC to oversee the election process, will continue to be deployed in the same districts for the next 10 days and they will submit daily reports to the committee.