Green Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Monday shot down all the permissions granted to Publishers and Booksellers Guild for holding this year's book fair at maidan.
Acting chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and justice KK Prasad directed the Guild to restore the maidan grounds to Army in its original condition within seven days.
Terming the permissions granted to Guild as illegal, the ACJ said: "We hold that the state authorities in a hot haste gave so-called permission to Guild for holding book fair at maidan without even complying with the environment and local laws. Consequently, we directed all these authorities to cancel their permission to guild forthwith."
Indicting the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, PWD, Fire services and Pollution control board, the ACJ said: "AG told this court on January 19 at 2.45 pm that no permission had been granted by any state authorities, but now it appears that on the same day those state authorities issued so-called clearance to Guild. Such conduct of the state authorities speaks for itself that they had not done their duty that requires detailed investigation before issuing any such clearance."
Holding the Guild guilty of obtaining permission from the Army by making 'false' statement that it had obtained necessary clearance from Police, KMC, PWD, Fire services and other state authorities, ACJ said: "Guild's statement was a blatant lie. As it would be evident from the fact that on January 15 no clearance had been given by any of those authorities."
Rejecting all arguments of PCB's advocate Bikash Bhattacharya and the state advocate general, Balai Ray, that irrespective of any discrepancies in granting permissions to Guild, the public sentiments and tradition of the city must be considered, the ACJ said: "The law would prevail upon the public sentiments and tradition. There is no provision under any law for giving exception to any organisation like the Guild for holding a fair in violation of law."
Taking a serious view of the alarming air pollution in the city, the ACJ said: "We are concerned with the pollution level in the city, which is far higher than the permissible limit. The presence of lakhs of people during the book fair would definitely increase the pollution. When the PCB itself in the 2002 Book Fair compelled the Guild to give a warning to the people that it would be unhealthy to visit the fair venue, there was no justification for allowing the book fair at maidan."
Coming down heavily on the PCB, the ACJ said: "It was a duty of the PCB to maintain the pollution upto permissible limit. But even after 21 years the PCB ignored the law prescribed by Parliament in 1986 and never monitoring the air pollution during book fairs at maidan after 2002. We are, therefore, left with no other alternative but to describe the acts of PCB as a reckless one, causing health hazards to the public in general."
Green activist Subhas Datta placed the PCB's own report on air pollution during the 2001 book fair at maidan, which revealed that against the permissible limit of 500 RPM, it was between 611 to 1316, which might result in premature death of elderly people and cause serious respiratory problems to healthy people.
"Despite this, the PCB never alerted the visitors and did not measure the pollution during the subsequent book fairs from 2002 to 2006," Datta said.