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Mystery of missing records
- Officials mum on why Lala papers did not reach bench

Officially, it was a mere technicality that prevented the vacation bench from passing an order on Justice Amitava Lala’s restrict-rally directive.

The records of the trial court — held by Justice Lala on Monday, when he summoned the Calcutta Police traffic wing top boss to deliver his ruling banning rallies and processions from work-day Calcutta — were “untraceable” till Thursday morning, 72 hours since the court adjourned.

Officials were tight-lipped about what could have happened to prevent Monday’s records from arriving in another room of the same court 72 hours later. But what they said indicated that a mix of “extenuating circumstances” was responsible for the delay.

This prompted the vacation bench to rule that it would not be “proper” to pass any interim directive without going through the records. Every effort to trace the records proved futile till 11 am on Thursday, while the bench waited for 30 extra minutes for the files to arrive.

When the bench sat for an extraordinary session at 10.30 am, Justice Alok Chakraborty and Justice Shubhrakamal Mukherjee still held the hope that it would be “possible” to get some news about Monday’s records. They threw up their hands at 11 am, getting down to business without the papers, after advocate-general Balai Ray said the government team did not mind making do with the records available with Monday’s advocate-on-record A.K. Chatterjee.

When Justice Lala passed his order on Monday, the court was barely 24 hours from its Puja vacation. The certified copy of the order did not reach deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh’s office on Tuesday.

The government was not the subject of Justice Lala’s contempt notice and, therefore, it was not expected to get a certified copy without it landing on Singh’s table, officials explained.

The government waited for that to happen but, apparently, did not think it would have to contend with the court holidays. The high court registrar-general’s office was closed since October 1 (Wednesday) and those who could have traced the papers were not to be found. “As all of them were on leave, they could not be contacted to help locate the records of Monday’s proceedings,” a court official said.

It was only on Thursday — by then, it was too late — that the government team thought of trying to convince the vacation bench into directing that a certified copy be issued to advocate-on-record Chatterjee.

The bench complied with the request but, by then, it had also decided that it would not have anything to do with Justice Lala’s rein-rally ruling.

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