BJP's 'Rath Yatra' halted! Court to review order

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BJP's 'Rath Yatra' halted! Court to review order
BJP's 'Rath Yatra' halted! Court to review order

Kolkata : The BJP's plans to take out Rath yatra rallies christened 'Save democracy rallies' in West Bengal again hit a roadblock, with a Calcutta High Court division bench on Friday quashing the order of a single bench that gave the conditional go-ahead to the programme.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Debasish Kargupta and Justice Shampa Sarkar sent the case back to the single bench with a directive that the latter consider the intelligence inputs provided by the state agencies.

The Mamata Banerjee government had moved an appeal at the division bench against Thursday's single bench order and sought urgent hearing.

While setting aside the single bench's order, the division bench directed it to study afresh the 36 intelligence inputs from 31 police stations and five police commissionerates submitted by the state government before it.

The ruling came after state advocate general Kishore Dutta argued that the single bench had not considered the intelligence inputs and returned to the government without opening the sealed cover in which the inputs were given.

Dutta said the intelligence inputs had apprehended communal disturbances if the BJP's proposed programme was given the green light.

In an interesting development, senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi pleaded as a counsel of the Director General of Police and the additional director general (law and order) and argued that the rally and the reception part of the programme would lead to huge traffic bottlenecks, inconveniencing commuters.

Sanghvi said with the BJP submitting that 1,500 people would take part in each of the three Rath Yatra rallies in the state, there would be a kilometre long bus convoy in each case, jeopardising vehicular movement. He said the police have no objection to the holding of meetings, and pointed out that nearly 2,100 such political meetings called by the saffron outfit in the last two years have got the nod in the state.

The police's objection was about the rally and reception part of the programme that could cause traffic chaos, he argued.

On Thursday, acting on a petition filed by the BJP against the government refusing permission for the rallies, the bench of Justice Tapobrata Chakraborty had given conditional permission to the programme, saying the organisers will be liable for any untoward incident or damage to public property.

The state government had last week rejected BJP's plea to hold the 'Rath Yatra', arguing there was "grave apprehension of major breach of peace and communal violence during and in the aftermath" of the programme.

The BJP had moved a single bench of the Calcutta High Court on December 17 after the Bengal government's decision and proposed December 22, 24 and 26 as fresh dates for the three Rath Yatra rallies.

The BJP was originally scheduled to hold three Rath Yatra rallies from north Bengal's Cooch Behar, South 24 Parganas district's Gangasagar and Birbhum district's temple town of Tarapith, flagged off by party president Amit Shah on December 7, 9 and 14 respectively. These rallies were meant to touch all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state before converging at Kolkata in January.

Welcoming the order, the ruling Trinamool Congress said the BJP's plans to create unrest in the state would not succeed.

"We have full faith in the judiciary. The Rath Yatra is turning out to be the JP's bidai yatra (farewell rally). They don't have people with them. They want to foment trouble. Their eyes are on the chair, and not on the people. But they will not succeed," said Trinamool secretry general and state education and parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee.

BJP state vice president Jay Prakash Majumdar said his party would decide whether to approach the single bench of the High Court or move the Supreme Court.

"This government's constant objective is to not allow the opposition parties to hold their programmes. They are denying all democratic rights to the opposition," he said.