The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Streetstop rule spurs escape hatch hunt

For the police brass in Lalbazar, Tuesday was a day with a difference. Instead of plotting how to slam the doors on criminals, top cops were busy chalking out an escape route for themselves to wriggle out of a battle, on the streets of Calcutta, between the judiciary and the political establishment.

But there was little doubt over where the loyalties lay. A day after one of them — deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh — heard out Justice Amitava Lala of Calcutta High Court banishing rallies to the realm of darkness and holidays, officers busied themselves finding loopholes in the order.

Officially, however, they were only trying to “understand” the court order. “We haven’t yet got a copy of Justice Lala’s verdict,” deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh said on Tuesday. “We will definitely take the help of legal experts as soon as the copy of the judgment reaches us… in order to understand it word by word,” he added.

Officers explained that the “words” in the order would be of vital importance. “We are not sure whether the court order refers to the restriction of a rally or a procession. We are ready with the dictionary,” admitted an officer, wondering whether a procession would cover a bridal ceremony and an immersion gathering also.

For M.K. Singh, it was the second working day on the trot spent in court. Called there by the state’s judicial affairs machinery to participate in “discussions” on how to respond to the court’s verdict, he left soon after reaching his Lalbazar office around 10.30 am, only to return around 5.45 pm. Officially, however, the reason he spent the day in court was to “receive the written copy of the order”.

Tuesday evening promised some reprieve for Singh, as he rushed to Priya cinema to catch a special screening of Chokher Bali.

In the traffic department chief’s absence, other officers held the fort on Mahapanchami. Some, speaking “strictly off the record”, admitted to being happy at the court’s verdict restricting rallies. An officer held out his sunburnt arm, as evidence of his antirally stand.

“This is the result of all these years of doing duty under the sun to control rallies where politicians come in airconditioned cars while the ordinary citizen suffers,” he grumbled.

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