SC says postponing elections is the last recourse, issues directions for fair elections

New Delhi, Nov 23, 2021, Bar and Bench

The Court asked the State of Tripura to give details of security arrangements in place for polling and counting of votes.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to postpone municipal elections in Tripura on account of political violence in the State.

However, the Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Vikram Nath took serious note of the various incidents of political violence in the run up to the municipal polls in the State, and issued a slew of directions to the State and Police authorities.

"Postponing elections is a matter of last and extreme recourse. We consider that instead of postponing elections, the apprehensions can be redressed by issuing pre-emptory directions to Tripura to ensure that remaining phases of municipal elections take place in fair manner," the order said.

The Bench also asked the State to give details of security arrangements in place for polling and counting of votes.

During the hearing, the Court asked the State of Tripura whether Central Armed Forces were deployed to deal with the situation.

"Is there any paramilitary force in charge? We will keep this matter at 12.45. we will give you hour and a half from DGP and Home secretary on what arrangements are being made for safety and security for polling booth, staff, etc also right upto declaration of results."

After being informed of the number of troops deployed, the Court ordered,

"...a requisition shall be submitted to CRPF or the Home Ministry. Any such request will be duly considered having regard to situation to maintain peace in conducting free and fair polls in Tripura."

The Bench also called upon the State to submit tabulated data on the complaints made, steps taken on the same and whether FIRs have been registered.

"It is duty of the DGP, IGP & Home Secretary to assuage any misgiving of law enforcement machinery in supporting the electoral process. Law enforcement agencies must discharge duty in a non-partisan and non-biased manner and allay apprehensions that political adversaries are being targeted," the Court added.

The Court was hearing a contempt petition filed by All India Trinamool Congress alleging that violence against its party workers is continuing unabated in Tripura and false cases are being filed against them by the ruling BJP government.

Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the State of Tripura, said that it is a politically motivated case while pointing out that the petitioner had first approached the Tripura High Court and then moved the Supreme Court.

"It is a politically contrived matter. Same prayers were raised in Tripura High Court. The High Court issued noticed in September and made it returnable on October 7. They come here on the eve of elections. Today is the last campaigning day. Polling is on 25th. Suddenly they come up with string of incidents. We have an compliance report," Jethmalani said.

However, the Court said, "When an MLA is assaulted in a public rally and if statement is made on affidavit we have no reason to disbelieve it. Tell us who is in charge of security for these elections," the Bench demanded.

The TMC had earlier filed a petition seeking protection from violence against its party workers in Tripura in view of the municipal elections in the State which are slated to commence on November 25.

In that plea, the TMC had submitted that ever since it began campaigning for polls, its workers have faced violent attacks from goondas in a bid to prevent the party from contesting the elections.

The top court had on November 11 passed an order directing State authorities to ensure that law and order is maintained and no political party is denied its right to political campaigning in the State.

In the contempt petition filed presently, the TMC alleged that the situation in the State is "worsening by the day" and incidents of violence are continuing.

(Source: Bar & Bench)