The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha on legal rail-row track

Calcutta, Sept. 15: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is exploring the scope of becoming a party to the lawsuit filed by the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association in the Supreme Court against the decision to split railway zones across the country.

The chief minister said today he had held a round of talks with law minister Nisith Adhikary and would take a decision shortly after obtaining the opinion of legal experts. “We are in the process of obtaining legal opinion on the issue of division of railway zones,” Bhattacharjee told a rally organised by Left youth and student wings.

“The division, if allowed to be carried out, will hit not only Bengal but other states as well. I have already asked our law minister to find out if we (government) could be a party to the case that the federation has filed challenging the bifurcation.”

Bhattacharjee said the Bengal government would strive to be a party to the lawsuit in national interest because it believed that the bifurcation of zones, which means an investment of Rs 3,000 crore, would affect the economy of the country.

“In the present era of developed technology, a railway network can be operated from a central location through computers. There is no need for bifurcation (of zones). Why, even the Planning Commission has asked the railway ministry not to split the zones as it means wastage of resources,” Bhattacharjee said.

The Bengal government had told the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister that railway minister Nitish Kumar’s decision was a political one. Mamata Banerjee’s opposition to the decision is also on political grounds, he said.

“We tried to reason with them (the Centre) that the bifurcation issue is not confined to either Bengal or Bihar. That we do not want any tension between the two states on this issue, but they would not listen. So, we want to now fight in the Supreme Court,” the chief minister said.

Legal experts expected to be consulted by the government said there appears to be room for Bengal or other states to file an application for becoming an “added party”, if it could establish that the division would adversely affect its interests. “There are numerous instances where the apex court allowed such applications,” said an expert.

Bhattacharjee said the Centre, after the Rajdhani mishap, would be expected to abandon the plans for division and devote all its attention and resources to the issue of passenger safety.

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“We want an assurance from the Centre that no one will have to die in a train accident because of human callousness in the future. Bifurcation of the railway zones is not an issue at the moment,” the chief minister said.

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