On July 10, the Calcutta High Court directed the West Bengal government to ensure that all victims injured during the West Bengal Panchayat Elections 2023 are given the “best of treatment.” The court further called for a report from the Inspector General, BSF, the Nodal Officer, who has been appointed for the deployment of forces for the panchayat elections concerning the large-scale violence.
The court also directed the West Bengal government to render “all assistance” for those who have lost their lives during the panchayat elections, including deputing its officers to approach the families of the deceased victims. The court further directed that the FIRs must be registered in all cases where people lost their lives and post-mortem must be performed. Furthermore, the court directed that the post-mortem are videographed, and for the injured victims, their injuries are appropriately noted and placed before the court in the form of a report.
The court’s Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, was hearing Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s plea seeking an investigation into the violence perpetrated in the panchayat elections. The plea further seeks that the complaints of perpetrated violence be investigated by a central agency, and adequate compensation is given to the injured persons and the families of the deceased. The plea also seeks that Central Forces are deployed within a 100-meter radius of counting centres.
The petitioner claimed that his own district, Murshidabad, was also ravaged by violence with the poorest strata of victims being the worst affected. He further submitted that the families of the deceased were so disenfranchised, that they were unable to pay for the cremation.
The petitioner further submitted that the persons injured were unable to secure medical attention as the hospitals in the area were ill-equipped to deal with huge volumes of patients. He further submitted that the electoral malpractices ran amok in various polling stations, without the conspicuous presences of Central Forces.
The court said, “With regard to the first prayer sought for investigation by a Central agency to be monitored by a Sitting Judge of this Court, such a relief will be considered after the respondents file their affidavit.” The court said that the immediate aspect which needs to be addressed concerns the medical treatment of the persons injured in the alleged violence perpetrated on July 8, during the polling for the panchayat elections. Thereafter, the court’s focus is on the assistance to be extended to the families of deceased victims.
The court said, “In the light of the above, we direct the respondent/State to ensure that all the injured victims are given the best of treatment in the Government hospitals. However, if in the opinion of the treating doctors, the injured victims require more special care, which is not available in those medical centres, necessary arrangements be immediately made for transferring those injured victims to bigger hospitals for immediate medical treatment, care and assistance. This direction shall be implemented forthwith.”
Meanwhile, the West Bengal State Election Commission’s counsel submitted that re-polling had been ordered for 696 seats. The counsel further submitted that there are 339 counting centres, for which one company of Central Forces and State armed police forces have been deployed for each centre.
The court notes that the Inspector General, BSF, Nodal Officer’s report on violence perpetrated during the panchayat elections would be of significance as the petitioner argues there has been large-scale rigging of elections in various booths across the State.
The court further said that an intervenor submitted that the 696 booths chosen for re-polling are not correct, and as per a conservative estimate, re-polling should be conducted on about 50,000 booths throughout West Bengal. However, the court noted that the estimate was not in the form of an affidavit and said that the court would take note of the same when it is brought on record in the form of an affidavit.
The court said, “This report would be of significance because it is a submission of the petitioner appearing in person as well as the intervenors that there has been large scale rigging of the elections in various booths spread over the State and instances have been given in respect of four districts and the copy of the e-mail sent to the State Election Commission has been handed over to the learned senior advocate appearing for the State Election Commission. Therefore, it is submitted that the figure of 696 booths chosen for re-polling is not the correct number and in the conservative estimate of the intervenor, re-polling should be ordered in nearly 50,000 booths throughout the State of West Bengal. Since this averment made by the intervenor…is not on record in the form of an affidavit, we will take note of the submission as and when the same is brought on record by way of an affidavit.”