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Fine or jail for defiance

Calcutta, Oct. 4: At best, a fine would be imposed on them; at worst, they would be jailed.

This is the fate that awaits Biman Bose and other Left Front leaders who intend violating Justice Amitava Lala’s order restricting rallies in the city.

According to state bar council executive chairman Uttam Majumdar, the very fact that the leaders have announced they will defy the order can invite legal action. “The court is at liberty to summon those who have stated in a public forum that they will defy the court’s order and suo motu initiate contempt proceedings against them,” he said. “They can be penalised in the form of having to pay a fine or even arrested and put behind bars for openly expressing their intentions.”

In case the court decides to spare them, it is incumbent on police to disperse the rally. “It does not matter whether the police have received a certified copy of the order or not,” Majumdar said.

“In this case, the very fact that the state government had challenged the order before a division bench of the high court is enough proof that people, including the police, are aware of the contents of the order which were read out in the court. So, the police cannot take refuge behind this plea.”

Majumdar’s opinion was seconded by a sitting high court judge who refused to be named.

Criminal lawyer Subroto Mookherjee said if the rally proceeds despite the police’s best efforts — including lathicharge and arrests — they would have to file a criminal case against the organisers in a subordinate criminal court like the metropolitan magistrate’s court.

Thereafter, the court would treat the matter as a criminal offence and take appropriate penal action. “The offenders could even be jailed for a couple of months,” Mookherjee said. The other option would be a fine of up to Rs 2,000 in lieu of having to serve in jail.

In case the police, afraid to displease their political masters, do not take appropriate action, they would have to face the court’s ire. “The court can then issue show cause notices to the policemen and in case they are not satisfied with their replies, penal action can be initiated,” said Majumdar.

Experts said penal action could even take the form of suspensions. “Policemen have been suspended for such offences in the past and it can very well happen if the police do not act in accordance with the court’s orders,” said criminal lawyer Pradip Roy.

City police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty said: “We would have to receive a copy of the court’s order to find out its directions before taking any action against those participating in rallies on working days.”

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