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Bengal to notify panchayat polls, end process by July 15

Kolkata, May 14 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court Tuesday ordered the panchayat polls in West Bengal to be concluded in three phases by July 15, and directed the state government to notify the dates and schedule in consultation with the State Election Commission (SEC) within three days.

The verdict by the division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice J.M. Bagchi came on an appeal by the state government against an earlier verdict of Justice B. Sommader, which upheld the primacy of the SEC in directing it to conduct the polls in June.

Disposing of the appeal, the division bench of the court directed the government to furnish a detailed list of poll observers to the SEC within three days.

The bench rejected the SEC's demand of 800 companies of central armed police forces for the polls and asked the state government to compensate the shortfall of security personnel by procuring forces from other states or the centre.

The court also spelt out a scheme for deployment of security personnel in the 57,000-odd poll booths which have been categorised as highly sensitive, sensitive, less sensitive and normal.

It directed that two armed policemen and two unarmed constables would be provided for each highly sensitive booth, and two armed policemen for each sensitive booth.

For each less sensitive booth, one armed policeman and an unarmed constable would be provided for each premise, which may house more than one booth, the court said.

The SEC earlier moved the court challenging the state government's "unilateral" notification of panchayat elections in two phases. Justice Sommader Friday directed the polls to be held in three phases by June and empowered the SEC to draw the revised schedule of the polls.

Justice Sommader also allowed the SEC's plea for the deployment of central security forces for the polls.

The state government Monday appealed against Justice Sommader's verdict contending that it "impractical to implement".

The ruling Trinamool Congress government hailed the court's verdict Tuesday that paved the way for the panchayat polls, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying: "All's well that ends well."

--Indo-Asian news Service

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