The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EC cracks whip, first graffiti arrest in state

Calcutta/Suri, March 2: The Election Commission today made it clear that no further wall writing would be allowed in the state.

Bengal’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Debashis Sen said he would talk to the poll panel on how to deal with existing graffiti.

That the EC means business was evident from the arrest of four Trinamul Congress supporters in Suri town of Birbhum district, 230 km from Calcutta, in the early hours today. This is the first arrest in the state for writing graffiti. The Trinamul activists were caught red-handed by a night patrol while writing slogans on walls. They were, however, released on personal recognition bond later in the day.

Till yesterday afternoon, the state had the jurisdiction over matters relating to defacement of walls. But after the announcement of the poll schedule, the EC will enforce the West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976. Also, the model code of conduct comes into force.

A meeting was held at Writers’ Buildings today to discuss the model code of conduct for ministers. The meeting was held in chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb’s chamber and was attended by home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy, inspector-general (law and order) Raj Kanojia, police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee and the CEO. Officials said enforcement of the ban on graffiti was also discussed.

The CPM had so far been saying it would only follow the EC’s guidelines on poll graffiti because it considers the poll panel the supreme authority on election-related issues.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose today iterated that the government may work according to its agenda, while the party would take its own course. “Let the government do its work and the party would do whatever is required,” said Bose, when asked whether the CPM would clean up walls smeared with graffiti.

Bose admitted that the law against defacement of property was a “stumbling block’’ to his party’s electoral campaign but that would not be a problem. “We have told our party workers to organise small meetings and undertake a door-to-door campaign,” he said.

The CEO said today that the provisions under the 1976 law against defacement of walls would be enforced across Bengal. “The law is very strict and it will be implemented across the state,’’ Sen said.

“There is no question of allowing fresh graffiti and the EC is now empowered to deal with the issue as poll schedules have been announced. As for walls which have already been defaced, we will talk to the EC and I hope to get a clarification from the poll panel.’’

He added that the commission had issued a circular in July 2005 saying the state act on prevention of defacement of walls may be implemented. This time too, the state government issued a notification on February 23 banning wall writing across the state.

However, after the notification was issued, the CPM said it would only go by the EC’s directive on the issue.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said the EC was the final authority in poll-related matters and he expected a reply to the letter he had written to the poll panel seeking clarifications.

Bose said only 25 per cent of the walls have graffiti on political, economic or social issues. “The rest of the walls are smeared with advertisements of companies and films, and pictures of women in scanty outfits. But that is considered as a facelift, not defacement,’’ the Left Front chairman said.

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