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HC seeks report on Maidan rally toll

Calcutta High Court on Wednesday asked a “high-powered” committee to visit the Brigade Parade Ground after the next political rally on the greens and file a report on the extent of damage and level of pollution in the area.

The division bench of Justice Asim Kumar Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee issued the ruling on a petition by environment activist Subhas Dutta, who has been seeking a ban on Brigade rallies.

According to Dutta, rallies at Brigade must be banned to save Victoria Memorial Hall from pollution.

Dutta had first moved the petition in 2002. The next year the army through a petition opined that police should not allow political parties and others to hold meetings at Brigade.

While hearing the case, the high court had in 2009 set up a “high-powered” committee to look after pollution-related problems faced by the Victoria Memorial.

The committee members are the secretaries in the environment and transport departments, city police chief, commissioner of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the chairperson of the Calcutta Port Trust.

Following the three almost back-to-back Brigade rallies on January 30 and February 5 and 9, Dutta moved an application reiterating his plea for a ban on Brigade rallies. The petitioner also submitted several photographs showing how the rallies had mauled the greens.

When the application came up for hearing on February 25, Dutta sought an immediate order banning rallies at Brigade. He also tabled a chart showing how the pollution level on and around the Maidan had surged during the public meetings.

“The court should ask political parties to collect Re 1 each from members attending the rally and hand over the amount to the army for repairing the damage to the greens,” Dutta submitted.

On Wednesday, when the matter again came up for hearing, Justice Asim Kumar Banerjee, the senior judge of the division bench, said: “I have heard that the state government is planning to shift the venue of meetings from Brigade to a plot in Mukundapur, off the Bypass.”

Dutta then said: “Till the government’s decision is not implemented, the court should not allow rallies on the Maidan.”

Justice Banerjee said: “Okay. We are asking the high-powered committee set up by this court to visit Brigade soon after the next rally on the Maidan and file a damage report. We will take action on the basis of such a report.”