Tripura Municipal polls : Provide two additional CAPF companies, media to be given unhindered access: SC

New Delhi, Nov 25, 2021, Bar and Bench

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to provide two additional companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to ensure that municipal elections underway in Tripura can take place without disruptions.

The Court also ordered that print and electronic media be given unhindered access to cover the poll proceedings.

"In absence of CCTV, print and electronic media be given unhindered access to cover the poll proceedings. Let directions be issued to SEC and authorities to ensure compliance with this part of the order," the order stated.

The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath was hearing a batch of pleas including one filed by All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) seeking additional security in Tripura during the municipal elections on account of political violence in the State. Late Wednesday night, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had also moved the Supreme Court alleging attacks on their party workers by ruling BJP.

Appearing for TMC today, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan claimed that they had received videos of others pressing polling buttons before old people could get inside the polling booths to vote.

Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the State of Tripura, informed the Court that two additional companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) were already deployed. He said,

"Polling is absolutely peaceful since 7 am. The only hindrance to free and fair polls is from CPI(M) and Trinamool."

After a brief discussion, the Court said,

"Instead of doing a anti mortem or post mortem now, we will direct DGP and MHA to provide two additional companies of BSF to polling booths."

The order passed by the Court stated,

"Inquiring into merits of allegations will cause delay for appropriate orders. With regard to exigency, certain ad interim directions are warranted. SG Mehta has been present and assured that MHA will respond favourably to request for more forces...

...DGP and Home Secretary to review and inform MHA for necessary action. Any such request will be considered in light of assurance made by SG Mehta. We direct SEC, DGP and Home Secretary to ensure that every booth is manned by sufficient strength of CAPF personnel."

The Bench also called for arrangements to be made to re-deploy CAPF personnel to ensure safe collection of ballots and smooth declaration of results.

The matter was listed for further hearing next week, with the parties given liberty to approach the Court in case of any urgent situation.

On Tuesday, the Court had refused to postpone the municipal elections, while taking serious note of the various incidents of political violence in the run up to polls, and issuing a slew of directions to the State and Police authorities.

The CPI(M) in its plea said that its workers and sympathisers are being threatened against exercising their franchise for the polls. The party sought to intervene in the writ petition filed earlier by TMC making similar allegations. ( Bar and Bench)