Not a step may have been taken to formalise and implement Justice Amitava Lala’s order restricting rallies on the streets of Calcutta, but the impact was felt where it matters, the morning after.
Tuesday began on a clean slate for Lalbazar, at least on one score. The board in the office of Kuldiep Singh, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), drew a blank, while on any ‘normal’ day it remains overrun by ‘roads to avoid’ (read: traffic-stopper rallies).
And this was the second day running that the board has worn a curiously clean look. It has been wiped clean of all procession postings since the time M.K. Singh, deputy commissioner (traffic), was summoned to Justice Lala’s court on Monday morning, to be at the receiving end of a landmark judgment banning daytime, weekday rallies.
Though the copy of the high court order is yet to reach Lalbazar, police are not just denying permission for rallies, but are not even accepting applications, fearing a court rap, sources said.
Take Tuesday. While a section of Lalbazar spent long hours deliberating over Justice Lala’s order, the traffic department ran its pen through an application from Indira Gandhi Memorial Foundation seeking permission for a rally on October 19.
“We have rejected the application filed by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Foundation,” confirmed assistant commissioner of police (traffic) P.K. Mitra. The foundation was seeking permission to observe the birthday of the late Prime Minister at ITC Park, near Birla Planetarium.
“But there was no question of giving them permission, in the wake of the the court order. If we allow anyone to organise a rally, we could face contempt of court. So, we have stopped granting permission for rallies,” said a senior officer of the traffic department.
According to traffic department sources, nearly 600 rallies were staged over the past eight months in the city. Around 1,500 rallies take place in the city in a year, they added. And most are held without police permission. “Being denied permission by the traffic department or office of the deputy commissioner (headquarters) hardly makes any difference to the organisers,” said a senior officer.
“For instance, we never give any political party or social organisation the permission to hold a rally on Rani Rashmoni Road, but every other day, you find some rally or the other converging there and causing traffic chaos in the city centre. Even a few days ago, the SFI organised a rally without our permission,” said an officer, without adding that the rally in question was attended by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, no less.