SC reminds Trinamool of its 2018 order on rural polls; SC asks TMC to move HC on plea seeking investigation

On Thursday, with the verdict of the Supreme Court the dream of AITMC to get relief from the Supreme Court has ended.

SC has ordered the party o approach the High Court of Tripura for other relief and rejecting their writ petition with prayers for investigation into acts of vandalism and hooliganism and immediate action on complaints of victims of assault, intimidation and other criminal activity.

The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath was hearing AITC’s writ petition filed in view of the then-impending municipal elections in Tripura, where the other prayers were for a direction to the state for maintenance of safety and security in areas where the elections were scheduled to be held, to provide security to the members of the petitioner, and to restrain arbitrary and illegal use of power by the state authorities to allow free campaigning by the petitioner. The bench was also considering a contempt plea moved by the AITC for alleged infringement of directions towards safety arrangement etc passed by the bench on the writ petition.

Appearing for the state, Solicitor General G Tushar Mehta said that the Supreme Court was misled with an affidavit filed by the AITMC stating that the High Court of Tripura was in recess.

He also informed the court that a similar petition with regard to the poll violence in Calcutta came here. Your lordships relegated them to the High Court. The High Court of Calcutta is looking into it and the situation in Calcutta was much worse.

Justice Chandrachud noted, “Now the election process is complete, the results have been declared. The reason why we assumed the seisin of the matter was because our concern was that the election process must take place peacefully. We intervened only as the interest of free and fair elections is of such overall importance that we felt that the Supreme Court could not have wasted any time…Rationally, they withdrew the petition before the High Court because having come here, they cannot have a second bite in the cherry. But for the rest of the prayers, we will permit them to revive their writ petition. The circumstances in which we have assumed jurisdiction were peculiar to the situation. Whatever was urgent, we have dealt with. But the normal remedy is 226- we should trust the High Court for looking into the prayer for pursuing the criminal process, filing of complaints etc as it is the locally-situated court. The Supreme Court should not take up all this exercise.”Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, for the petitioner, advanced that despite the Court’s best efforts, “unfortunately, 112 of 384 seats went uncontested.”At this, Justice Chandrachud indicated a 2018 judgment by a bench of the then-CJ Dipak Misra, Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and himself in context of the West Bengal gram panchayat elections- “I am sure you will have read that judgment where an identical allegation was made against your party in the gram Panchayat elections in West Bengal. The Calcutta High Court had issued sweeping directions like acceptance of ballot papers on emails, no scrutiny etc. We set aside those directions by the Calcutta High Court and said normal law has to take its course. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you say there are 112 uncontested seats as a result of coercion or force or whatever, you have your remedies in law that you can always pursue. Because, hypothetically, in a given case, if a candidate is prevented from filing a nomination in an election and the declaration of result follows, as a matter of course, an election petition would still lie on the ground that nomination was not accepted.”Mr. Sankaranarayanan persisted, showing breaches of the orders passed by the Supreme Court on the present petitions, “Once Your Lordships took seisin of the matter on November 11, certain directions were passed by Your Lordships which were fairly strong directions. Your Lordships passed three orders in which very specific directions were issued to the DGP and SP. We have shown previously that there are 16 instances where we have set out what has been taking place. There were Photographs also, of People (attackers) with helmets, candidates bleeding from the heads, admitted to hospital etc etc. No one has been arrested, only 41A notices have been issued. If they had complied with Your Lordships’ earlier directions, then the order of November 25 for 2 additional companies for security would not have been needed. There has been a contempt.”Justice Chandrachud noted that prayer (i) in the writ petition for the issue of a writ of mandamus or any other writ or order or direction for maintenance of security and safety in areas where elections are scheduled to held in November 2021, prayer (ii) to provide the security to the members of the petitioner and prayer (v) to restrain the respondent-authorities from using power in an arbitrary and illegal manner to allow the petitioners to continue campaigning, were pending the electoral process and have been dealt with by the Supreme Court.As regards prayers (iii) and (iv) for a free and fair investigation by an SIT headed by retired judge into instances of hooliganism and vandalism against the petitioners, and for direction to take immediate action into complaints of victims of criminal activity, criminal assault and intimidation, Justice Chandrachud opined that the same can be addressed by the High Court. “Very well, Your Lordships”, said Mr. SankaranarayananAs both the SG and Mr. Sankaranarayanan were engaged in other courts in the post-lunch session, the bench listed the matter on Tuesday for further consideration.

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