The high court on Tuesday directed city police chief Surajit Kar Purkayastha to file a report within seven days on the guidelines for puja pandals coming up on roads and referred to allegations of ministers acting like goons and organising pujas on roads.
“The police commissioner is directed to file reports within seven days stating the guidelines for sanctioning permission to public pujas encroaching on roads,” Justice Sanjib Banerjee ruled.
The report will have to mention how long such pandals will be allowed block roads.
The court also asked the police chief to state whether there are rules that allow a puja organiser to block a road. “If there is such an exception, the commissioner will have to explain why such a rule exists,” the order said.
The judge passed this order during the hearing of a petition by Durbar Mahila Samity — which works for the betterment of sex workers — alleging that cops from Burtolla police station were not granting it permission to hold Durga puja at the crossing of Abinash Kabiraj Road and Masjid Bari Lane in north Calcutta.
Judge cites ‘ministers-as-goons’ allegation
| The pandal of Ekdalia Evergreen. (Sanat Kr. Sinha)
When the case first came up for hearing before Justice Banerjee last week, petitioner’s lawyer Arunava Ghosh submitted that Burtolla police station had recently allowed a traders’ body to hold a Ganesh puja in the area by encroaching on around 1,000sq ft of a road. The lawyer also produced a photograph of the pandal.
“My client (Durbar Mahila Samity) wants to erect a pandal by encroaching on only 150ft of a road,” Ghosh submitted.
After hearing Ghosh’s plea, the judge had asked the officer-in-charge of Burtolla police station to file an affidavit stating why he had not allowed the petitioner to hold Durga puja.
On Tuesday, government pleader Ashok Banerjee submitted a report stating that Burtolla police had not allowed any organisation to hold Ganesh puja. “The puja (one that lawyer Ghosh had referred to) was held without any police permission,” Banerjee submitted.
“It would be better if you submit before this court that police had dismantled the pandal on charges of not obtaining permission from them. Why did your police not take action against some people and organisations?” Justice Banerjee asked.
“It has been alleged that ministers are behaving like goons and organising pujas by encroaching on roads. The police are only discriminating against the weaker section.”
The government pleader submitted that the police were only abiding by the high court guidelines while issuing or denying permission for puja.
The judge then asked: “Tell me now what is the guideline for (Ekdalia) Evergreen?”
Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, who is the chief patron of Ekdalia Evergreen, later told Metro that there was “no question of the puja pandal gobbling up road space.”
“This puja is 70 years old and started even before I was born. Anyone can come and check. We don’t construct pandals violating norms,” Mukherjee said.
Senior officers at Lalbazar said all puja committees have repeatedly been asked to abide by the high court’s guidelines on pandals.
“A team of senior IPS officers will visit each of the mega pujas to check if there is any deviation,” said an officer.