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Rally restriction: Sept. 29; Biman Bose marches: Oct.11; Is this contempt'

Calcutta, Feb. 12: A 2003 Supreme Court verdict — allowing the use of audio-visual footage as evidence — might culminate in Left Front chairman Biman Bose becoming an instrument in creating history in Calcutta High Court.

But legal opinion appears to suggest this evidence can only supplement facts already known in the case which is to decide whether or not the CPM leader committed contempt of court while he spoke up against Justice Amitava Lala’s ruling last year banning rallies in Calcutta on working days.

In the affidavit Bose filed in the court in response to the contempt case brought against him, he denied saying “Lala go back” and claimed that the media had distorted his statement.

The petitioners who filed the contempt case requested the court that they be allowed to present audio-visual evidence of Bose’s statement and were told by the division bench of Justices A.K. Ganguly and S.P. Talukdar to file an application.

Much as the possibility of the court viewing such evidence for the first time remains alive, there are enough pointers in Bose’s affidavit itself as to what he thought of Lala’s verdict restricting rallies to only Sundays and holidays.

The affidavit said he was “not inclined to obey the order (passed by Justice Lala)”, admitting that Bose did express this view at a news conference at the party headquarters on October 4, 2003.

“If this is not contempt, what is'” asked Bar Council executive committee chairman Uttam Majumdar.

Besides, his deeds were consistent with his words. He marched at the head of a rally organised by the People’s Relief Committee (a CPM medical front) from Park Circus to Moulali when Lala’s ruling had not yet been stayed by a division bench.

Whether police had given permission for the rally or not is irrelevant in this case, legal experts said.

Lala’s ruling was given on September 29, the rally was held on October 11 and the stay order came on October 13. Lala had given the order after getting stuck in traffic blocked by a rally on the way to the high court.

While denying making derogatory comments against the judge, Bose has explained that what he had said was “what will I tell people if they raise slogans like ‘Lala, go back’ at rallies”.

“Commenting on slogans people ‘would’ raise in the future does not hold water,” Majumdar said.

On one occasion, the Left Front chairman had said he was even willing to go to jail to uphold the city’s democratic traditions, a statement that had been recorded by newspapers.

“A person who talks of going to jail must be aware of his own guilt,” said advocate Arup Chatterjee. “He was obviously aware that he was committing contempt.”

“Even without the audio-visual medium getting into the act, Bose and his defenders have a tough task,” said barrister Nirmal Chandra Mitra. “The media should ask Bose how all of them made the same ‘deliberate error’,” he added.

Audio-visual evidence can work both ways. “If the claims Bose has made in his affidavit are found to be true, he should not have a problem,” former Calcutta High Court judge Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee said.

“But if they turn out to be false, he could end up with far more trouble,” Banerjee added.

Bose would then have to face punishment on two counts — contempt as well as lying in an affidavit.

His team might also have to answer to the opposing side why he did not send a rejoinder to newspapers which “altered and distorted” his comments on Justice Lala. This inactivity was “curious”, legal experts said, explaining why Bose’s team would have to do some “exceptional defence” to save him.

Even if audio-visual evidence upholds Bose’s denial, the CPM leader has left many telltale signs as he vociferously went about protecting the city’s “democratic traditions” that will be tested for potential contempt of court.

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