HC rejects Bengal government appeal, allows Amit Shah’s Nov 29 rally in Kolkata
The state government had moved the appeal before the division bench, challenging the single bench order. BJP had moved the high court against a rejection by the Kolkata Police of its application for holding the November 29 meeting
A division bench led by the Calcutta high court chief justice on Friday allowed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to hold its November 29 rally at the state capital’s Esplanade five-point crossing, where Union home minister Amit Shah will be the main speaker, according to the court order seen by HT.
The division bench presided by chief justice T S Sivagnanam passed the order after hearing a petition filed by the Kolkata police on Wednesday challenging a single bench order which permitted the rally despite objections raised by the authorities.
“Admittedly, the application has been made at least 23 days before the proposed programme,” the division bench said in its order.
Referring to a statutory advisory uploaded on the Kolkata police website regarding such events, the bench, which also comprised justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, said, “After going through the advisory, we find that the advisory cannot be taken as a rigid rule and in any event, the time limit of 2 to 3 weeks would itself suggest that there is discretion vested with the authorities and this time limit is to process an application and cannot be used as a ground for rejection of an application.”
The state government had moved the appeal before the division bench, challenging the single bench order. BJP had moved the high court against a rejection by the Kolkata Police of its application for holding the November 29 meeting.
The main contention of the Kolkata police was that the BJP did not apply for permission before the event.
“The court can take judicial notice of the fact that processions/rallies/meetings etc. are regular features in the state of West Bengal and more particularly, in Kolkata. There have been several instances, which have come to the notice of the court, where rallies/meetings and agitations have been held, where no permission has been obtained,” the order said.
“Very recently, there was a large gathering of people agitating for a particular issue and the same paralysed the entire traffic movement in Kolkata, and the police had a tough time controlling the situation. Thus, we are of the considered view that the learned single bench was fully justified in setting aside the rejection and issuing appropriate directions,” it added.
“The division bench not only permitted the rally but also made critical observations on the objections the police authorities raised. The chief justice observed that the July 21 rally held every year by Trinamool Congress at the same location should also be stopped on the same grounds,” BJP’s lawyer, Lokenath Chatterjee, said.
With eyes on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Bengal BJP leadership requested Shah to address the rally for which preparations are on to ferry party supporters from the districts in trains and buses.
“Shah has confirmed that he will address the gathering,” Bengal BJP chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.
While hearing the BJP’s petition on Monday, the single bench of justice Rajasekhar Mantha allowed the rally and observed that Kolkata police cannot make discriminations while issuing permission for political events.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) holds a massive rally on July 21 every year at the same location, the BJP said in its petition after the city police raised objections.
Every year, chief minister Mamata Banerjee pays homage to the memory of the 13 youth Congress workers who were killed in police firing in Kolkata on July 21, 1993, when the Left Front was in power.
Banerjee was a Youth Congress leader in 1993 and led an agitation on that day against the state government. Over the years, the rally has emerged as a symbol of the TMC’s struggle since its birth in 1998 and serves as a platform from which Banerjee sends out messages and declares future plans.
Friday’s division bench order not only dealt a blow to the TMC but also triggered a slugfest.
“The government has been given a befitting reply by the court. How can the police allow only TMC to hold rallies at Esplanade and stop others?” Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said.
TMC leaders did not speak on the court order but warned that police will take action if BJP workers create law and order problems.
“The police will not hesitate to act if BJP creates trouble. On several occasions we have seen its workers violating the law and even attacking policemen,” TMC Rajya Sabha member Santanu Sen said.
No police official commented on the court case.