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In a big relief to Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress, the Supreme Court has allowed the West Bengal State Election Commission to notify the results of uncontested seats in the Panchayat polls.
The Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud observed that such a large number of seats going uncontested shows a “grim situation”.
However, the Court has ruled out re-election, holding that the individual aggrieved persons may file election petitions challenging the result of these uncontested seats within 30 days.
“…once the election process has commenced, it is trite law that it should not be interdicted mid stage. The electoral process is afforded sanctity in a democracy. That is the reason why in a consistent line of precedent, this Court has insisted upon the discipline of the law being followed so that any challenge to the validity of an election has to be addressed by adopting the remedy of an election petition provided under the governing statute”, reads the judgment penned by Justice Chandrachud.
On the question of e-filing of nominations, the Court has set aside Calcutta High Court’s previous order which allowed for the same.
In what was a huge blow to the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal, the Supreme Court had earlier stayed the publication of results of the Panchayat polls for over 20,000 seats that went uncontested.
The Apex Court had expressed its shock over the sheer number of seats where candidates from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) were declared to have won on account of no contest.
It was pointed out to the Court that nearly 34 per cent of the seats were uncontested and that the TMC candidates were declared winners even before the polls were held.
The West Bengal State Election Commission had approached the Apex Court against the order passed by the Calcutta High Court that had allowed the SEC to accept nominations of candidates filed electronically.
The respondents – opposition parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Congress – had submitted before the Court that their candidates were unable to file their nominations on time, owing to the violence carried out by TMC candidates.
The Court was also then informed about the large number of seats that went uncontested due to this violence.
The Court had then directed the State Election Commission to ensure that free and fair elections were held across the State, and had imposed a stay on the publication of result of those seats that went uncontested.