Calcutta High Court: The division bench comprising of TS Sivagnanam, CJ., and Uday Kumar, J., slammed the State Government of West Bengal and West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) for failing to co-operate with the Central government for deployment of the Central forces during the Panchayat elections held on July 08-07-2023 in West Bengal.
In the instant matter, the petitioners, BJP’s leader Suvendu Adhikari and Congress’ leader Adhir Ranhjan Chaudhary, preferred a contempt petition against the inaction of the State of West Bengal and West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) in implementing the High Court’s order dated 13-06-2023 and 15-06-2023. The Court vide order dated 06-07-2023, directed the extension of deployment of Central Forces in the State of West Bengal for a period of ten days from the date on which the results of the elections are declared and fixed the next date of hearing on 11-07-2023.
On a perusal of the report filed by the Inspector General, BSF, the Force Coordinator, the Court observed that there are allegations against the SEC State Government of non-cooperation on a number of occasions. The court stated that “If the allegations set out in the report ultimately turn out to be true, then it would tantamount to a clear case of willful disobedience of the order and direction issued by this court.”
The Additional Solicitor General contended that no clear instructions were given to the Force Coordinator regarding deployment and other facilities were not provided to the Central Forces. The Additional Solicitor General further contended that for the effective utilization of the Central Force, “all the district authorities may be directed to attach suitable number of local police officers with each company and during the period the Additional Director General (Law and Order) of the State may responsible for liaisoning with the Central Forces”.
The Court opined that Chief Secretary of the State of West Bengal has to call urgent meeting inviting the Inspector General, BSF, the Force Coordinator, Director General of the State of West Bengal, the Additional I.G. (Law and Order) and Home Secretary and such other officers of the State Government as may be required. The Court further pointed out the policy level decisions which are to be taken in the meeting and directed the Chief Secretary of the State of West Bengal to ensure that those decisions are strictly implemented. The Court pointed out as follows:
1. “The district administration should be issued with clear directions as to what has to be done by them as and when directions are issued. Similarly, the State Police in all the districts shall extend their cooperation.
2. The Nodal Officers who are appointed by the State Election Commission to oversee the election process shall be continued to be deployed in the very same district for next ten days
3. The Nodal Officers shall submit daily report to the committee which has been formed consisting of the Chief Secretary, the Inspector General, BSF, the Force Coordinator, the Director General of the State of West Bengal and the Additional I.G. (Law and Order) and other officers with copy marked to the Inspector General, BSF, the Force Coordinator as regards the ground realities which is prevailing in the district to which he has been nominated as an Observer.”
The Court directed the SEC as well as the appropriate authority of the State Government to filed proper response with regards to all the allegations made in the report filed by the Inspector General, BSF, in the form of an affidavit not later than 24-07-2023. The Court fixed the next date of hearing on 26-07-2023.
[Suvendu Adhikari v. Rajiv Sinha, 2023 SCC OnLine Cal 1982, order dated 12-07-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mr. Guru Krishna Kumar, ld. Senior Advocate, Mr. Soumya Majumder, Mr. Srijib Chakraborty, Mr. Kabir Shankar Bose, Ms. Priyanka Tibriwal, Mr. Vikas Singh, Mr. Sayak Chakraborty, Mr. Anish Kumar Mukherjee, Mr. Suryaneel Das, Mr. Chiranjit Pal, Counsel for the Petitioners in CPAN 831 of 2023;
Mr. Subir Sanyal, Mr. Lokenath Chatterjee, Mr. Sukanta Ghosh, Mr. Arghya Chatterjee, Counsel for the Petitioners in CPAN 905 of 2023 and CPAN 907 of 2023;
Mr. Koustav Bagchi, Mr. Debayan Ghosh, Ms. Priti Kar, Counsel for the Petitioner in WPA(P) 286 of 2023;
Mr. Ritzu Ghosal, Mr. Mrityunjoy Chatterjee, Mr. Debapriya Majumder, Counsel for the Petitioner in CPAN 841 of 2023;
Mr. Jishnu Saha, ld. Senior Advocate, Ms. Sonal Sinha, Mr. Tarun Chatterjee, Mr. Sujit Gupta, Mr. Soumen Chatterjee, Counsel for W.B. State Election Commission;
Mr. Ashoke Kumar Chakrabarti, learned ASG, Mr. Billwadal Bhattacharyya, learned DSGI, Mr. Ayanabha Raha, Counsel for the Union of India;
Mr. S.N. Mookerjee, learned Advocate General, Mr. Sirsanya Bandopadhyay, Mr. Arka Kumar Nag, Counsel for the State.