The erstwhile Second City of the British Empire scored a dubious point on Monday over London, First City of an empire that’s no more.
Tim Grierson Rickford and Gremma Prall, visitors to Calcutta from London, were at the high court on Monday to take in how the city’s judiciary functioned. That the newspapers were full of “the anti-rally thing” helped in whetting their appetite for a closer look at the highest court in sight.
A few minutes inside Calcutta High Court’s room no. 12, they learnt how some things worked here. News of a rally to protest a rein-rally ruling was enough for them to beat a hasty retreat from the courtroom in central Calcutta to their temporary halt in a south Calcutta neighbourhood, foregoing plans for a closer look at the way the high court worked.
Rickford, who used to be a journalist in London, and his companion, Prall, are on a two-month tour of India. Calcutta — which was, incidentally, the first base for their forefathers — was to be their last stop in India before their itinerary took them to Bangkok, in Thailand.
They touched down in the city on Saturday when the papers were full of the stories of “judicial activism” and how political parties were doing everything in their power to frustrate the judiciary and the people. That Monday was to see a division bench working full time — it would be one of the few days the court would convene during the Puja vacation — and would be taking up a case that had created so much of public interest came in very handy for the duo’s must-see plans in the city.
“You can understand that this issue is going to be very close to the hearts of the people,” Rickford said. “Even as a tourist, it is very important for me to have the local transport working overtime,” he added, explaining the importance of the legal battle for the average tourist. “Besides, I would also have liked to see how the judiciary functioned in the city,” he said, adding he knew that the Indian judicial system was a legacy of the British system.
Rickford and Prall arrived at the court just as the division bench — comprising Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice S.P. Talukdar — was preparing to sit down to hear the state government argue against Justice Amitava Lala’s restrict-rally ruling.
Rickford was already inside the courtroom as Prall waited outside with a bag (she was denied entry for carrying that) when they learnt what the ruling coalition had planned for the city in the afternoon. The rally — to be brought out by the student and youth wings of the Left Front partners —would hit the road around 2 pm, they were warned.
That was enough for the worry-lines to appear. After getting a few more details of how rallies strangled the city, they said they would wait —probably till their next visit, if any — to spend time in a Calcutta court.