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West Bengal opposes Calcutta High Court suggestion to allow online filing of nomination for polls; says let Central government do it first

The counsel for the State government asked why should West Bengal alone do it when no other State does it. The counsel further said that such a direction should first be issued to the Central government ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Let the Central government or the Chief Election Commission do it first. In fact, Central government is being run by BJP. Let the BJP government be first in this and let them modify the rules to accept online nomination papers. We will follow them,” the counsel submitted.

This was after a bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya suggested the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept forms online.

“The Election Commission must be abreast with latest technologies and try using the same to ensure free, fair and violence free elections,” CJ Sivagnanam told the advocate appearing for the SEC.

Filing of nomination papers online will be helpful for scrutiny etc, the CJ opined.

The Court was hearing a bunch of petitions which among other things sought a direction to the SEC to accept nomination forms online.

The petitioners claimed that the candidates apprehend threat to their safety as the block offices where nomination has to be filed, have been captured by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers.

The petitioners, therefore, urged the bench to allow the candidates to submit their papers either in the office of the District Magistrate or in the SEC office in Kolkata or through online mode.

However, the counsel representing the West Bengal government vehemently opposed the suggestion to file online nomination forms.

“This cannot be done. First let the Chief Election Commission allow online filing we will consider it then. Even the Parliament doesn’t allow online filing. No other State does it. Why should we?” the counsel argued.

At this, CJ Sivagnanam responded,

“Mr counsel, West Bengal has been first in several things. Be first even in this.”

But the counsel refused to accept the suggestion.

“No Milords. We do not want to be the first in this,” he said.

The petitioners also challenged the notification issued by the State Election Commission (SEC) granting only five days for candidates to file their nomination papers in the upcoming panchayat polls.

The Court said that prima facie, the period of five days granted by the SEC, is short and would not be sufficient for candidates to fill up and submit their nomination papers.

During the hearing, the Court emphasised that the SEC should act independently.

“The Election Commission, be it State one, is and must act as an independent body. The period of five days, we prima facie, are of the view is too short for the candidates of over 75,000 seats to submit their papers,” the bench observed.

The bench ordered the West Bengal government and the SEC to file their replies in the matter by June 12, when it would hear the matter next.

“If we go by the notification, the candidates have time only till Wednesday to submit their papers. So, among the five days, Saturday and Sunday is a holiday. We will examine all this. Let them respond,” the bench said while adjourning the hearing.

Source: Barandbench

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