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Monday, April 9, 2018

ELECTIONS= writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the Petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus to direct the West Bengal State Election Commissionrespondent No. 6 to issue nomination forms to the candidates of the petitioner so as to enable them to file their nomination in the ensuing upcoming panchayat elections as also to take immediate steps to make arrangements for submission of nomination papers through email and to provide police protection to the candidates of the petitioner so as to enable 1 them to collect and deposit the nomination forms for the purpose of contesting the panchayat elections already notified and also direct the respondents Nos. 1 to 3 to call for Central Para-Military Forces to maintain the law and order during the conduct of the panchayat elections in the State of West Bengal.= We are, therefore, inclined to dispose of this petition by granting liberty to all political parties, their candidates, including any independent candidate/s proposing to contest the election in question, to approach the State Election Commissioner with their any individual or/and collective grievance.If any such grievances are made by any political parties or/and any candidate/s in writing then needless to say, the State Election Commissioner would ensure disposal of any such grievance so made by the party concerned strictly in accordance with law forthwith. We hope and trust that in order to ensure fair and free election to the panchayats, the State Election Commission shall take appropriate steps to remove the apprehensions of the petitioner and/or intending candidates and they may not be deprived of their chance to contest the panchayat elections. With the aforesaid observations, the writ petition is disposed of.

 REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
WRIT PETITION (C) 302 OF 2018
Bharatiya Janata Party
West Bengal .... Petitioner(s)
Versus
State of West Bengal & Ors. .... Respondent(s)
O R D E R
R.K. Agrawal, J.
1) By the present writ petition filed under Article 32 of the
Constitution of India, the Petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus
to direct the West Bengal State Election Commissionrespondent
No. 6 to issue nomination forms to the candidates
of the petitioner so as to enable them to file their nomination
in the ensuing upcoming panchayat elections as also to take
immediate steps to make arrangements for submission of
nomination papers through email and to provide police
protection to the candidates of the petitioner so as to enable
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them to collect and deposit the nomination forms for the
purpose of contesting the panchayat elections already notified
and also direct the respondents Nos. 1 to 3 to call for Central
Para-Military Forces to maintain the law and order during the
conduct of the panchayat elections in the State of West
Bengal.
2) We have heard Shri Mukul Rohatgi and Shri P.S.Patwalia
the learned senior counsels appearing for the petitioner and
Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shri Amrendra Saran,
learned senior counsel for the respondent Nos. 1 to 4 and
Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Additional Solicitor General for
respondent No. 7.
3) Relying upon the newspaper reports which appeared in
the Times of India, Kolkata edition dated 03.04.2018 and
04.04.2018, the Statesmen, Kolkata edition dated 04.04.2018
and the Telegraph e-paper preview,the learned senior counsels
for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner’s candidates
who want to contest election for the panchayat which is to be
held in the State of West Bengal are not allowed to collect the
nominations forms and to submit the same on account of
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violent resistance being put by the supporters of the ruling
party.
4) In support thereof, learned senior counsel for the
petitioner placed before us a chart showing the nomination
report cumulative upto 04.04.2018 in respect of Zila Parishad,
Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat.
5) At this juncture, learned senior counsel relied upon a
decision dated 28.06.2013 passed in SLP (C) Nos.
19928-19931 of 2013 titled West Bengal State Election
Commission Vs. State of West Bengal & Ors. to impress upon
the court that on earlier occasion also when the panchayat
election in the State of West Bengal was to be held in the year
2013, then this Court exercised its powers and directed to
re-schedule the elections.
6) Learned Senior Counsel, therefore, submitted that the
State Election Commission be directed to issue nomination
papers on internet which may be downloaded, filled and
submitted on internet by the candidates of the Petitioner as
well as candidates of all other political parties including those
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persons who want to contest the election as independent
candidates.
7) The learned counsel for the respondent, however,
submitted that the writ petition has neither been filed by an
individual candidate nor any details have been given to show
that any candidate has been prevented by anybody from
obtaining and filing the nomination papers. Thus, in view of
the decision of this Court in the case of Bharat Singh and
Others vs. State of Haryana & Others - (1988) 4 SCC 534, the
writ petition itself is not maintainable.
8) Further, relying upon the decision in Boddula
Krishnaiah and Anr. vs. State Election Commissioner, A.P.
& Ors. – (1996) 3 SCC 416 wherein it was held as under:-
“….11. Thus, it would be clear that once an election process
has been set in motion, though the High Court may entertain
or may have already entertained a writ petition, it would not
be justified in interfering with the election process giving
direction to the election officer to stall the proceedings or to
conduct the election process afresh, in particular when
election has already been held in which the voters were
allegedly prevented from exercising their franchise. As seen,
that dispute is covered by an election dispute and remedy is
thus available at law for redressal.”
learned Senior Counsel for the respondent submitted that as
the election process has been set in motion, this court should
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not pass any directions which may effect the elections.
According to him, the State Election Commission is the
appropriate authority to look into all these grievances and in
fact on 05.04.2018, the West Bengal State Election
Commission had issued a Notification No.
632-SCC/3E-30/2018 providing additional venue for filing
nomination.
9) Shri Tushar Mehta, learned counsel submitted that the
respondent No. 7 can make arrangements for providing para
military forces if the State Election Commission makes a
request or any directions is issued by this Court.
10) In reply, the learned senior counsel for the petitioner
invited the attention of the court to paragraph 6(o) wherein a
specific mention has been made where a person who went to
file his nomination was severely beaten up and succumbed to
the injuries.
11) We have given our thoughtful consideration to the
submissions made by learned senior counsel for the parties. It
is not in dispute that the West Bengal State Election
Commission had issued notifications 02.04.2018 for holding
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panchayat elections in the State of West Bengal. Thus, the
election process has been set into motion. In view of the
decision of this Court, in the case of Bodula Krishnaiah (supra)
wherein it was held that once the election process has been set
in motion, the Court ought not to interfere, we are not inclined
to interfere. However, the fact remains that according to the
newspaper reports filed along with writ petition which has
been referred to by the learned senior counsel for the
petitioner incidence of violence has taken place when the
candidates have gone to obtain and file their nomination
papers. This also stands fortified with the notification dated
05.04.2018 issued by the West Bengal State Election
Commission where the State Election Commission had
provided additional venue for filing the nomination papers.
12) From the perusal of the Scheme and the provisions of the
West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003 (for brevity “the
Act”), we find that the Act has empowered the State Election
Commissioner to pass appropriate orders in relation to any
grievance, when made by any political party, or/and their
individual candidate including any independent candidate
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with regard to any matter relating to and arising out of the
election and election process.
13) It is, therefore, essentially for the State Election
Commissioner to consider the grievance once made by any
party or/and candidate as the case may be and pass
appropriate order/s keeping in view the nature of grievance
made and relevant factors concerning the election and its
process.
14) We are, therefore, inclined to dispose of this petition by
granting liberty to all political parties, their candidates,
including any independent candidate/s proposing to contest
the election in question, to approach the State Election
Commissioner with their any individual or/and collective
grievance.
15) If any such grievances are made by any political parties
or/and any candidate/s in writing then needless to say, the
State Election Commissioner would ensure disposal of any
such grievance so made by the party concerned strictly in
accordance with law forthwith.
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16) We hope and trust that in order to ensure fair and free
election to the panchayats, the State Election Commission
shall take appropriate steps to remove the apprehensions of
the petitioner and/or intending candidates and they may not
be deprived of their chance to contest the panchayat elections.
With the aforesaid observations, the writ petition is disposed
of.
...…………….………………………J.
 (R.K. AGRAWAL)
.…....…………………………………J.
 (ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE)
NEW DELHI;
APRIL 09, 2018.
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