The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fair profit comes into play

Calcutta, Jan. 9: Calcutta High Court has admitted a petition that challenges the “public interest” in holding the Book Fair on the Maidan by pointing out that it is being organised by a profit-making organisation.

The contention, cited by advocate Arunava Ghosh in his petition, indirectly strikes at the root of the Bengal government’s justification for pulling strings at the Centre to get the army to give permission to hold the fair on the Maidan. The government has been saying public interest is involved since the Book Fair is a “social and cultural” event.

Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Mitra said the affidavit would be heard tomorrow.

The Publishers and Booksellers Guild had filed a public interest litigation for permission to hold the Book Fair on the Maidan this year, referring to it as its “original site”.

But Ghosh’s petition has raised three key issues:

The guild, a profit-making organisation, cannot move a PIL on the Book Fair

The high court, on the basis of an earlier assurance by the state government, had already issued an order asking the army not to allow any organisation to hold fairs on the Maidan.

In 2006, the same court, in a special permission, had allowed the army to let the guild hold the fair on the Maidan. Now the guild has no authority to ask the court to recall its earlier order

Fairs on the Maidan were banned on ground of pollution. The Book Fair, like other fairs, creates pollution. So, the court will either have to lift the ban or it will have to ask the army to adopt a uniform policy on allowing fairs on the Maidan.

Ghosh has also pointed out that the guild was a private organisation.

The army’s affidavit on what prompted it to change its earlier decision and allow the Guild to hold Book Fair 2007 on the Maidan, too, will be submitted tomorrow.

In another petition, environment activist Subhash Dutta has claimed that the organisers of the Book Fair do not take proper steps to check air pollution.

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