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Supreme Court declines early hearing to BJP plea on stalled Bengal rath yatras

On December 22, a divisional bench of the Calcutta High Court had put on hold the order by a single-judge bench allowing the party to hold three rath yatras in the state. The BJP had planned to flag-off its first rally from the temple town of Tarapith in Birbhum district.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2018 23:19 IST
HT correspondent
HT correspondent
New Delhi
Supreme Court,plea,BJP
The Supreme Court on Monday declined a request by the BJP to hear its plea against the Calcutta High Court’s order staying its rath yatras in West Bengal.(PTI/Representative Image)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined an urgent hearing into a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) petition challenging a Calcutta high court order three days earlier disallowing its ‘Save Democracy’ rath yatra in West Bengal. The rath yatra was initially scheduled to begin on December 7.

The BJP moved the top court after a Calcutta high court division bench on Friday last set aside a single judge’s go-ahead for the yatra a day earlier. The division bench said the court needs to consider afresh 36 intelligence inputs the state government had submitted.

The petition filed by the party’s state vice president Jay Prakash Majumdar said the “right to protest is recognised as a fundamental right under the constitution” and “assumptions” cannot be the ground to take “arbitrary decision on pretext of reasonable restriction”. It claimed that there was total lawlessness in Bengal as large number of BJP workers have been killed for showing dissent to the state government.

Though the party wanted the matter to be heard urgently, which the court registry declined to entertain. The top court is on a winter break and will reopen on January 2.

The BJP had earlier approached the high court after the state government denied it permission for the yatra, which was rescheduled to be taken out from December 28 to 31 after the go-ahead on Thursday last.

The top court’s refusal for the urgent hearing coincided with a clash between police and BJP supporters at Basirhat in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district. As many as 16 police personnel were injured in the clash. The police earlier canned BJP supporters as they organised “a law violation programme” to protest against the alleged lack of democratic space in West Bengal. A police officer said 56 BJP workers were arrested and booked for attempt to murder.

West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said it was difficult to control the situation since it was a mass programme. “Some people threw stones even in front of me. We tried but could not stop them. But one has to find out who they were. We urged our supporters to be peaceful.”

state minister Jyoti Priya Mallick said they beat up the police and threw stones at them. “They also took away weapons . Dilip Ghosh should be arrested since he is responsible for provoking the party’s workers to attack police. It is only because our party does not believe in heckling opposition party leaders that Ghosh is still roaming free,” said Mullick.

In New Delhi, BJP’s lawyer said the party’s plea over the yatra would be listed in the normal course while the top court is closed for winter vacations till January 2.

Mullick wondered what the BJP would do now that even the Supreme Court has refused to treat the matter as urgent. “Some of them would shout in vain and the rest would shed tears.”

Congress leader Abdul Mannan welcomed the Supreme Court’s refusal and hoped the BJP’s yatra will not get the approval.

The BJP has decorated air-conditioned buses as raths or chariots for the yatra (procession) to galvanise support ahead of the national elections due next year.

First Published: Dec 24, 2018 16:01 IST