The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court orders call-off, Mamata stays firm

Calcutta, Nov. 30: Call off the bandh ' a court told a political party today, making history.

Calcutta High Court has directed Mamata Banerjee to abandon the 12-hour bandh she has planned on Friday and file a compliance report.

Never before in the history of Independent India has such a directive been issued by the judiciary to a political party.

'The Trinamul Congress chairperson will have to publish a notification in newspapers and in the electronic media announcing withdrawal of the proposed bandh,' the division bench of Justice Pratap Roy and Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya said.

Mamata has been told to do this on Thursday, a day before the bandh. But it does not appear as if she and her party will comply with the order, setting up a confrontation that will be played out in the courts as well as in the public mind.

Addressing a meeting, Mamata said: 'We have a constitutional right to call a bandh and the court cannot deprive us of the right. Let them first change the Constitution.'

In the order, the judges did not mention the consequences Trinamul would face if the order was not followed. But while giving the ruling, the court made an observation that pits the fundamental right of the people to go about their normal business against what political parties call the fundamental right to protest by organising a bandh.

It is not Trinamul alone that is facing the sanction of the special court set up to hear bandh-related cases. The two judges also described the half-hour chakka jam called by the Citu, the ruling CPM's labour wing, as 'illegal'.

'In our view, this is just short of a bandh. Commuters will have to suffer due to this movement. So, the governments will have to ensure free movement of vehicles during the chakka bandh,' the order said.

Like Mamata's bandh, Citu's protest is targeted at the recent petroleum price rise.

Today's order came in the backdrop of Trinamul's refusal to accept the summons issued by the court to appear before it. The petitioners against the December 3 bandh had complained yesterday that neither Mamata nor her party was accepting the summons.

The judges said their order would be sent to Mamata and her party through the registrar of the court.

'The petitioner in the case and the state government are also directed to send the copy of the order to the party and its chairperson.'

A Trinamul MLA and convener of the party's legal cell, Arunava Ghosh, said the bandh call stands. 'There is no question of withdrawing it whatever the court's order. Bandh is not at all unconstitutional and observing a bandh is not illegal,' he said.

The judges proclaimed: 'The court cannot sit idle even after seeing that the fundamental rights of the common people are being disturbed by the narrow-minded politics of political parties.'

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