Calcutta, Nov. 5: Last Thursday, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declared that his government would move court to ensure that the Book Fair, “an important cultural event”, is held on the Maidan.
A group of environmentalists, fighting to save the only such patch of green in the city, is preparing to challenge the government by raising a basic issue: Does the government have the locus standi to go to court to support the cause of the organiser of a private fair'
“The state government is not the organiser,” said environment activist Subhas Dutta, who is spearheading this move. “It is a private fair organised by the Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild. So in what capacity can the government intervene to ensure it is held on the Maidan'”
Sovanlal Hazra, government pleader, argues that “the state provides infrastructure like fire services, police and water. We shall move the court along with the guild”.
But legal experts are not convinced. “The government’s arguments are misleading,” said senior advocate Supradeep Roy. “The issue is not of providing infrastructure, but where the fair will be held. The army as the custodian of the Maidan can be a respondent, but not the government. The question of providing infrastructure can arise only after the venue is settled.”
Roy said the fair is a “profit-making venture” organised by private companies and its success or otherwise could not by “any stretch of the imagination” be the government’s responsibility.
Former high court judge Bhagawati Prasad Banerjee agreed that “the state government does not have the locus standi to move court”.
“The law says that a court can be moved only when someone is aggrieved. But the government is not an aggrieved party, and it has no interest in where the fair is held.”
Advocate Arunava Ghosh raised another point. “If tomorrow someone else wants to hold a fair on the Maidan, will the government also move court seeking permission for it'”
If, however, the guild offered to donate all the profits to a charitable cause, such as building infrastructure at the BC Roy Children’s Hospital where 22 babies have died in three days, it might stand out from other fairs.
Maybe then “culture” as well as some children’s lives can be saved.