In a setback to parties other than the Trinamool Congress, the Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Calcutta High Court’s order to permit e-filing of nominations for the West Bengal panchayat elections and refused to interfere with the election schedule.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed the State Election Commission not to notify the results of the seats where the candidates have been elected unopposed.
The apex court also sought responses from the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party on the SEC plea that challenged the High Court’s May 8 order to allow e-nomination and reading into the Representation of People Act, 1954, the provision of the Information Technology Act.
After hearing the SEC plea for about 45 minutes, the apex court said that it was concerned about the High Court order and that 34 per cent of candidates were elected unopposed, that is, in about 17,000 of the total 48,000 seats.
“What is worrying us is both the High Court order and 34 per cent candidates getting elected unopposed,” the Chief Justice said, adding that the SEC will ensure “absolute fairness” in the conduct of the May 14 elections.
Describing the High Court order as “most absurd”, senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi asked how could e-nomination be accepted as a candidate is supposed to appear before the Returning Officer concerned, file nomination papers in person, sign the nomination form, and deposit fee.
Dwivedi said that there is a procedure for further scrutiny of the nomination papers and objection raised by contesting candidates, but the High Court had directed the State Election Commission to straightway accept nominations filed through emails.
The court directed for the next hearing on July 3.