Ensure CCTV surveillance in all booths for KMC election: HC to Bengal poll panel

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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the West Bengal State Election Commission (WBSEC) to ensure CCTV coverage in every polling booth of Kolkata during the local municipal corporation election on December 19.

Hearing a petition filed by a BJP worker, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice R Bharadwaj also directed the state poll panel to ensure electronic surveillance in ‘strong rooms’ where EVMs will be stored after the polling.

The state election commission assured the high court that CCTV cameras and additional surveillance measures would be ensured in all 4,842 polling booths and 365 auxiliary booths across the 144 wards of Kolkata Municipal Corporations.

“As per our demand, the high court has directed the state election commission to install CCTV cameras in all the polling booths during KMC polls… The state poll panel has also been asked to preserve the CCTV footage,” advocate Subhabrata Chowdhury, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, said.

“… (the) Advocate General has submitted that the State has no role in this issue. Having regard to the fact that installation of CCTV cameras will add to transparency in the election process and the State Election Commission has duly accepted the prayer of the petitioner, no further adjudication in this petition is required,” the order stated.

Meanwhile, the BJP filed a fresh petition in the Calcutta High Court seeking deployment of Central forces in the KMC polls. This a day after, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea from the BJP seeking the same, and asked the party to move the Calcutta High Court with its grievances.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the State Election Commission, through its lawyer, sought time from the high court to express its opinion on the issue of deployment of Central forces.

In his intervention, Advocate General Soumendranath Mukherjee, representing the West Bengal government, referred to the reports of poll violence during the civic elections in BJP-ruled Tripura where Central forces were deployed.

“Central forces were deployed in the municipal election in Tripura. But the news of post-poll violence in the media did not escape our notice… The West Bengal State Election Commission has not yet sought for Central forces… the State Election Commission is active enough to ensure fair and free voting. The state police are also active,” the advocate general told the court.

Opposing the BJP’s plea for the deployment of Central forces during the civic body poll, the Advocate General submitted that a similar prayer had been rejected by the court in 2013. He said that a division bench of the high court had during the day directed the installation of CCTV cameras in every polling booth for the KMC elections.

The BJP in its petition claimed that the law and order situation in West Bengal was not like in other states of the country and referred to the post-poll violence in the state following the Assembly elections in May this year. The BJP also contended that to ensure transparent and peaceful KMC polls, there was no option but to deploy Central forces.

The petition will be heard at 10:30 am on Wednesday.

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