New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a petition that challenged the Election Commission’s appointment of two retired bureaucrats as observers in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls. The apex court said the voting was already over, rejecting the petitioner’s view that it wasn’t over until the results were declared.
The commission (EC) had appointed Vivek Dubey as the central police observer for West Bengal and Jharkhand, and Ajay Nayak as the special observer for West Bengal. Petitioner Ramu Mandi had alleged that Dubey and Nayak had been appointed in contravention of the law to ensure a certain party is favoured in the conduct of the Lok Sabha election.
Why the petition was dismissed
A vacation bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah said, “Since the election is over, we are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32.” The bench, however, told Mandi, who contested the polls as an independent candidate from Barrackpore constituency of West Bengal, that he was free to approach the Calcutta High Court.
Much as Mandi was an independent candidate, the acceptance of his petition would have helped West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s conspiracy theory that employees of the central government (both in the security forces and in civilian administration) helped the BJP during the polls.
Barrackpore was one of the seven constituencies in West Bengal where polling was held in the fifth phase of the general elections.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the counsel appearing for the EC said that polling for the Lok Sabha elections was already over.
The counsel for Mandi said that although the polling was over, results of the general elections have not been declared yet.
“The election process is still going on. Results are yet to come,” the lawyer said.
To this, the bench said, “You go to the high court. We are permitting you to go to the high court”.
The petitioner’s counsel then said that judicial work in the high court there was affected due to the lawyers’ strike in Kolkata. He said he was “apprehensive”, alleging that these observers would “indulge in favouritism and partisanship” and their appointment will directly be against his interest as an Independent candidate.
“There appears to be no reasonable or cogent reasons to nominate or appoint retired officers as observers especially when there are multiple senior officers who are currently in service and are known to have impeccable integrity and reputation,” the plea said.
Mandi further alleged that the observers were causing “prejudice” to him and he apprehends that his chances of being elected was being jeopardized by their “illegal” appointment. “Numerous attempts have been made by them to jeopardize the election process by making unnecessary and unwarranted statements in public about the West Bengal’s purported precarious condition,” he claimed in the plea.
The petition had also alleged that Dubey and Nayak’s appointments as observers did not fulfil the requirement laid down under the Representation of the People Act, since they were retired bureaucrats and not “officers of government”.
On 6 May, the apex court had sought responses from the EC, West Bengal government and others on Mandi’s petition.