The State government had objected to the extension of the April 9 deadline, to which the SEC had cited a Supreme Court direction to "allay the apprehensions of intending candidates" in its notification extending the nomination process by a day.
In a major setback to ruling Trinamool Congress, the Calcutta High Court on Friday delivered a historic order which would effectively push back the poll dates by weeks if not challenged in a superior court.
The high court had issued a stay on filing of nominations.
However, unfazed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed the order and expressed hope that the elections will be held as early as possible. The court asked the election commission to discuss the new date with the state before announcing it.
The panchayat elections in West Bengal were to be held in three phases from May 1 to May 5 and the counting of votes was scheduled on May 8. It was also pointed out that the tenure of the present panchayat in the State would end in August. "Even if the commission issues the notification today, fixing the nomination date on Saturday (April 21), there has to be a clear 21-day gap from the last date of nomination to the holding of polls".
The poll panel made the submission to Justice Subrata Talukdar, who has stayed the election process while adjudicating a bunch of pleas challenging the Commission's recent order withdrawing the extension of the deadline for filing nomination papers by candidates. Importantly enough, the controversial April 10 notification has been scrapped too by the Calcutta High Court.
Opposition parties - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Congress and the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) - had moved the court, accusing the Trinamool of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations for the polls ever since the process began on April 2.
The BJP moved the HC challenging the withdrawal and Justice Talukdar stayed the election process on April 12.
However, the top court transferred the case to the Calcutta High Court.
The election watchdog toed the line taken by the Trinamool Congress and told the court that the judiciary could not intervene once the election process had started.
He said during an election process, the election commission is the sole authority and filing of the nominations is a part of the process. CPI (M) lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said that the SEC and the state government should take lessons from the decisions. The State poll panel is one of the constitutional bodies.