No Calcutta HC action on Bhowanipore poll, but chief secretary faces ire – Times of India

Kolkata News

KOLKATA: The Calcutta high court on Tuesday declined to interfere with the Bhowanipore assembly bypoll scheduled for Thursday but took exception to the state chief secretary’s letter asking the Election Commission for the vote to avert a “constitutional crisis”.
“We do not find it appropriate to interfere with the EC decision,” a division bench of acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Banerjee ruled. But the bench said state chief secretary HK Dwivedi had projected himself as a “servant of the political party in power” and had “misled” the EC while writing to it for the bypoll.
The Bhowanipore seat fell vacant, necessitating the bypoll, after Trinamool leader Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay resigned as MLA after being elected from the constituency; Chattopadhyay said he wanted to make way for CM Mamata Banerjee so that she could become an MLA. The state chief secretary wrote to the EC, saying there would be a “constitutional crisis” if the bypoll was not held within six months.
“The most offensive part is the conduct of the chief secretary who projected himself more as a servant of the political party in power than a public servant when he stated there would be a constitutional crisis if the election was not held,” the bench observed.
Acting CJ Bindal observed that the chief secretary was a public servant. “He (the chief secretary) is a public servant, who is to discharge his duties in terms of provisions of law, whosoever may be in power. He is not to ensure that any particular person should come in power and in the absence there should be a constitutional crisis,” the bench said.
The bench said the chief secretary’s “constitutional crisis” plea was not explained in his letter to the EC. “What constitutional crisis the government could face with one person losing or winning an election was not explained. How did the chief secretary know that the CM was to contest the election from Bhowanipore? He was not a party spokesperson or returning officer,” the acting CJ observed.
The division bench examined the EC press note issued earlier this month and found information about the Covid situation furnished by the chief secretary to the EC was “contrary to the facts” if one went by the restrictions announced on September 15. “The EC was also misled regarding the flood situation in the state,” the bench observed.
Sanjay Basu, who represented CM Banerjee in the PIL filed by Sayan Banerjee, refused to comment on the HC’s remarks about the state chief secretary’s conduct: “I cannot comment. I appeared for the Trinamool candidate.”