The rally rein-in ruckus couldn’t have picked a better day to march right back into the spotlight. Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the government to file an affidavit stating the steps it was taking to regulate rallies on working days, hours before a religious procession choked traffic.
The after-effect of the march of the Sant Ravidas devotees lingered well after the warning time relayed by police on Thursday — 1 pm to 6 pm — leaving the city’s first citizen and corporate chieftains fuming.
For, the victims of the evening’s traffic trouble read like the city’s who’s who. Governor Viren J. Shah and Anjanaben Shah, industrialists S.K. Birla, Rajive Kaul, Gaurav Swaroop, V. Saran and many others were left stranded on the city’s prized high road on Friday evening.
They were on their way to attend the tilak ceremony of Mahendra Jalan’s son when they were held up for close to an hour on the AJC Bose Road flyover, as traffic on the Park Circus-bound flank came to a standstill. With even groom Mayank held up on the flyover, the function started “over an hour late” at ITC Sonar Bangla.
Earlier in the day, the public interest litigation filed by Calcutta High Court lawyers Pradip Suchanti and Kallol Guha Thakurata last November held centrestage. The two wanted to know the steps the government had taken to frame rally restrictions, following Justice Amitava Lala’s order.
Appearing for the state, advocate-general Balai Ray informed the division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A.K. Banerjee, that measures had already been taken to regulate rallies. “The government has imposed a ban on rallies on Strand Road and Shakespeare Sarani. Meetings will only be allowed at Deshabandhu Park, Deshapriya Park and a part of Rani Rashmoni Road. Rallyists will be allowed to occupy only half the street during processions.”
The advocate-general went on to say that “two state political bodies” had rejected the idea of totally banning rallies. On the court’s insistence, he named the Trinamul Congress and SUCI as those resisting the proposal.
As consensus could not be reached, the government could not amend police rules, Ray added. He assured the court that attempts were on to amend laws to empower city police to act against traffic violators.