Calcutta, Oct. 13: The Left Front may smell “victory” in Round I of its battle against Justice Amitava Lala with the Calcutta High Court division bench staying his order restricting rally hours on weekdays but the Opposition parties sounded unhappy, though not for the same reasons as the man on the road.
The stay provides an air of legitimacy to the CPM’s move to organise successive meetings in the city in the next few days. The party has said the cadre will not come in processions or rallies but the police, caught between protecting the right to road and the right to rally, heaved a sigh of relief with the stay virtually restoring status quo.
Expectedly, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas described the stay as “a victory of the people and democracy”. He hailed it as a “course correction” at a news conference and claimed that his party and the constituents of the front have always held rallies without causing any inconvenience. “We do not believe that rallies are in conflict with any other rights of the people. Besides, if people are inconvenienced in any way, the government is best placed to look after their interests.”
The main Opposition party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, sought central intervention in what it described as “a constitutional crisis”. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee said: “The judiciary has started yielding to the CPM’s threats and pressure tactics.”
We noticed in the past few days how the CPM-led state government flouted the high court order and disregarded constitutional provisions. The Marxists also organised processions in violation of Justice Lala’s order.”
Bengal, in Banerjee’s opinion, is facing a “constitutional crisis with the ruling party openly defying the judiciary, one of the pillars of democracy”. He said Trinamul would urge the Centre to intervene and help resolve the crisis.
Buoyed by “the victory”, the front decided to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow. Its leaders will discuss the significance of the stay and chalk out a course of action. “The front partners will give their opinions on the issue and reach a consensus on a way to minimise inconvenience to the people caused by rallies,” Biswas said.
The CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc welcomed the stay order.
State BJP vice-president Deba Prasad Chowdhury said the stay would inconvenience commoners. “The city will again witness unrestricted processions, which will obstruct traffic as well as the people’s freedom of movement,” he said.
The Congress, however, sought to strike a balance between the Marxists’ stand and that of the Trinamul-BJP combine.
Party general secretary Manas Bhuniya said the Congress has all along favoured a legal battle on the issue. “We did not like the manner in which the CPM took to the streets to protest against Justice Lala’s order. One may or may not like a court order, but he or she does not have the right to flout it. No party or individual should do anything that may jeopardise our constitutional framework. However, we are happy that the division bench has stayed the order,” he said.
The Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), which raised the protest pitch against the order banning rush-hour rallies, detected in the stay “the CPM’s ploy to implement the chief minister’s original plan to restrict rallies to three venues — the Brigade Parade Ground, Shaheed Minar and Rani Rashmoni Avenue”.