Almost as soon as a division bench of Calcutta High Court admitted the state government’s plea against Justice Amitava Lala’s no-rally-on-weekdays order, there was a perceptible shift in the police position as well.
Gone was the flurry of activity of the past two days at Lalbazar, as officials cancelled permission for holding rallies in the city, even in the absence of a copy of the court’s order. Pleas from politicians were not entertained. An application by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Foundation, which has the patronage of the Congress, to hold a meeting at ITC Park, near Birla Planetarium, was turned down by the traffic department on Tuesday, even though it was scheduled for October 19.
Instead, the police have now adopted a more cautious “wait-and-watch” policy. “Today, we have not denied permission to a single rally,” said deputy commissioner (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh on Wednesday.
Officials said it is mandatory for organisations seeking to hold a rally in the city to apply for police permission at least two weeks before the scheduled date. “There are scores of applications lying with the traffic department and the DC, headquarters,” an official said. “The process of denying permission, just begun, seems to have been put on hold for the moment.”
The official added: “Now all that we are doing is preparing a list of the pending applications. Let us see what happens at the high court on Thursday. If there is a stay on the order, then denying permission for rallies would be a futile effort.”
The police had earlier hailed Justice Lala’s order, saying that it provided them with a handle to stop rallies in the city on weekdays, which led to a “nightmare” as far as traffic management was concerned. But with the government moving in to quash the order, the top cops have clammed up.
The police have even deferred plans of meeting puja organisers in the wake of Justice Lala’s orders. As the judge had listed religious processions, too, as falling under the purview of the restriction, police had decided to meet with the organisers to chalk out immersion day plans.
“Even this would now depend on the outcome of the court directives on Thursday,” an official said. “As the executing authority, we will do whatever the court asks us to do. But it is a problem to function under such uncertainty. So, we hope that the entire matter is resolved as fast as possible, so that we can get on with our work.”