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Calcutta ‘helpless’, Mumbai is not

Calcutta, July 30: Calcutta High Court today again expressed helplessness in entertaining a public interest litigation against Trinamul Congress’ call for a 12-hour Bengal bandh on Monday, despite the tough action taken by Bombay High Court recently.

“The judiciary is impotent as far as the bandh is concerned and the court has no administrative authority to take action against bandh supporters,” said the division bench of acting Chief Justice A.. Roy and Justice A.K. Mitra today, rejecting the petition.

Responding to a PIL, Bombay High Court last week fined the Shiv Sena and the BJP Rs 20 lakh each for a bandh they had called last year.

The Calcutta judges said the same bench had observed on June 5, 2002, while disposing of a similar petition, that the court could pass an order preventing the bandh but it was the duty of the administration to execute it.

Last year, a division bench presided over by former Chief Justice A.K. Mathur had also observed that the “court is helpless” in tackling a bandh.

“The courts can do little if members of political parties are not conscientious enough about the consequences for ordinary people during a bandh,” Justice Mathur had said.

However, the court today recorded the submission of state government counsel Debabrata Roy that the administration would take every possible step to ensure normal life on the day of the bandh.

“All buses will ply as usual like any other working day and any attempt to disrupt normal life will be firmly dealt with,” Roy said.

Buoyed by the Bombay High Court stricture on the Shiv Sena and the BJP, three daily wage labourers moved Calcutta High Court on July 26 against losses likely to be suffered because of Monday’s shutdown.

The petitioners’ counsel Idris Ali and Srimayee Mitra pointed out that enforced strikes and bandhs had been banned by the Supreme Court.

They demanded that “political parties violating the court’s ruling on bandhs should be prosecuted and penalised”.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said at Writers’ Buildings that the government would ensure normal life on the bandh day.

“I have spoken to members of all bus unions and railway authorities. Buses and trains will ply normally and anyone obstructing traffic will be hauled up by police,” warned the minister.

Chayan Mukherjee, the inspector-general of police (law and order), said extensive police deployment would be made all over the state to ensure “peace” on that day. “All preventive measures are being taken so that traffic along the two important roads — E.M. Bypass and the Rajarhat-airport road — are not disrupted. Police pickets are being set up at all strategic railway locations and patrolling will be done along all national highways,” he said.

Mukherjee said police patrolling has been intensified in trouble-prone areas such as North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan and East Midnapore.

In Calcutta, around 6,000 police personnel would be pressed into service, the police officer said. Additional arrangements have also been made for deployment of police personnel in plainclothes in all sensitive zones.

Senior police officers would be out on the street co-ordinating with the control room every hour, he said. Special forces would also be patrolling in wireless vans and a special task force would be kept ready to handle emergencies, said the police officer.

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