A division bench headed by Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava on Wednesday postponed the hearing of the case related to Bengal civic polls till Monday, while governor Jagdeep Dhankar returned to the state an amendment bill related to the Howrah civic body without signing, seeking more details.
Two separate petitions seeking polls to all 114 civic bodies on a single day had been moved before the court.
During Wednesday’s hearing, petitioners said they were apprehensive that the State Election Commission will declare the poll schedule for Calcutta and Howrah Municipal Corporations before the present case was disposed of.
At this point, the counsel of the state poll panel refuted such doubts and said both the court and the commission were constitutional bodies. “One constitutional body wouldn’t do anything to tarnish the dignity of another,” the commission’s lawyer said.
However, neither did the court pass any order in this regard nor did the poll panel give any black-and-white undertaking.
In another development, governor Dhankhar returned the Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2021, which intends to exclude 16 wards of the Bally municipality from the Howrah Municipal Corporation, to the state government. He sought further details on the issue before signing the bill, sources said. The bill has been passed in the state legislative Assembly.
In order to hold polls to these two civic bodies on December 19, the state poll panel will have to issue a notification by Thursday. Without the governor’s signature on the bill, the bifurcation of Bally cannot be executed.
“There are two possibilities. Either we issue the notification to the CMC polls on Wednesday and wait for the governor to sign the amendment. Otherwise, we can issue the notification for both polls. In that case there might be legal ramifications,” a source in the poll panel said.
The officers of the poll panel met on Wednesday evening to discuss the possible ways forward.
While Trinamul expressed discontent with the delay in issuing poll notification, rival BJP has welcomed the governor’s decision.
“I don’t know why the polls are being delayed. The Covid graph is down in Bengal now and this is a good time to hold the polls. Anyone can move court on anything, but the BJP does so when it loses people’s support,” said state transport minister Firhad Hakim.
Bengal BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “We have always wanted polls to all civic bodies be held together… What we’ve asking for is the fair thing, the governor is seeking the same....”