The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lawless Bengal

Calcutta, Oct. 4: Launching a blistering attack on Justice Amitava Lala for restricting rallies on weekdays, the Left Front today decided to defy him by taking out processions to Mahajati Sadan on Wednesday for a mass convention.

The convention will finalise the date for a “massive protest demonstration” throughout the state, including a mass rally and sit-in demonstrations. This is likely to be before October 27, the day Calcutta High Court reopens after the Pujas. Till a division bench decides otherwise, the order banning rallies from 8 am to 8 pm on working days stands.

CPM-affiliated organisations like the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and similar Leftist bodies will also bring out a “huge procession” from Calcutta University to Rani Rashmoni Avenue on October 13 in a show of defiance to the order.

The protest decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the Left Front today. Announcing its plans to take on the judiciary head on, Front chairman and CPM politburo member Biman Bose said: “Let us make it very clear that we are not going to abide by Justice Lala’s verdict. We are ready to go to jail for defying it. We may even raise slogans urging Justice Lala to go back.”

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was not invited to the meeting, presided over by Bose. “We are announcing a political programme which does not necessitate the presence of Bhattacharjee,” a member said.

Briefing reporters later, Bose spoke up for the tribals, whose rally had held up Justice Lala on the way to court and spurred the order.

“There are 48 lakh tribals in Bengal and they are very much a part of our culture,” he said, adding that an “undesirable” order was being “imposed” on the people.

“The ruling implies that rallies and processions can be held in the metropolis only at night on weekdays. This is not the practice in Calcutta. I have heard that in Kerala rallies are held at night,” Bose said.

He wondered why the high court had issued a directive on holding rallies on holidays only at the Brigade Parade Grounds, Shahid Minar and Rani Rashmoni Avenue when the government had already named the same spots as venues.

“I am ready to go to jail,” Bose said, asked about possible contempt proceedings for his remarks today. Justice Lala declined comment on Bose’s outburst.

Later in the day, the chairman of the Bar Council of West Bengal, Amiya Kumar Chatterjee, condemned the outburst. He said an emergency meeting of the council would be held tomorrow to “take stock of the situation”.

“What Bose has said is condemnable and we shall not take lying down his decision to take on the judiciary,” Chatterjee said. “At tomorrow’s meeting, our executive committee will decide how best to counter this shameful outburst.”

Today’s Left Front meeting came in the wake of a Calcutta High Court division bench refusing to stay Justice Lala’s order after the state moved a petition against it. All major Front partners attended the meeting.

While the CPM was the most vocal against the order, followed by the RSP and the Forward Bloc, the CPI felt the Front should show some restraint. “I think we should wait till we get a copy of his order,” CPI state secretary Manju Majumdar said.

RSP leader Sunil Sengupta dubbed the order “draconian”. Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh said even the British raj had not dared “to curb the people’s fundamental democratic rights” in this manner.

The Congress and the Trinamul Congress, both of which have condemned Justice Lala’s ruling, refused comment on Bose’s outburst and the Left Front’s agitation programme.

“We shall decide what to do next only after Mamata Banerjee holds our party’s working committee meeting,” said Pankaj Banerjee, senior Trinamul member and leader of Opposition in the Assembly.

Congress spokesman Manas Bhuniya said: “We shall first have to take a look at the order before we decide on anything.”


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