The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Police order copy plea rings hollow

Calcutta, Oct. 12: Justice Amitava Lala passed an order banning rallies during working hours on weekdays on September 29. Till today, the police top brass kept saying they are yet to get a certified copy of the judgment, spreading confusion among the foot soldiers.

Several lower-rung police officers are surprised with the statement made by their seniors, even four days after the government received a copy of the order.

“The chief secretary announced that he had received the court order. But our senior officers have not seen the order so far. Isn’t it surprising and confusing as well'” asked an officer.

Kuldiep Singh, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) — the person authorised to give permission for rallies and meetings — kept repeating: “On behalf of Calcutta police, I can only say that the copy of the judgment has not reached us so far. Even I am waiting anxiously. During the Puja days, I had instructed my office staff to be alert as the copy could reach any moment. Even after reaching home, I check the mailbox thoroughly looking for the order.”

Middle-level officers are not ready to accept this version. “Though we have not been given any specific instruction so far, the state government must have forwarded the copy to the city police,” said an officer, on condition of anonymity.

Like Kuldiep Singh, deputy commissioner of police (traffic) M.K. Singh also claims to be in the dark about the order. “He was summoned by Lala and had to answer the queries of the judge. He represented Calcutta police in the high court. So he is supposed to receive the copy directly from the court,” said an official of the traffic department.

After analysing the role of senior police officers, a section of policemen think the stand is a ploy. “It is possible that the government has adopted a go-slow strategy. They will first scrutinise the order to find out the escape routes and loopholes of the order with the help of legal experts,” said another police officer.

Though the force seems to be kow-towing to its political masters, a section of senior police officers are happy with Justice Lala’s order. “We thought the court order will help us keep rallies and processions at bay,” said a senior officer, on condition of anonymity.

Signs of a crack in the political opposition to the rally-rein order also emerged today when an all-party convention called by the Youth Congress at Jatin Das Park — in protest against Justice Lala’s order — virtually fell through as the Trinamul Congress and the BJP decided not to attend it.

Trinamul MLAs Saugata Roy and Ashoke Deb were supposed to attend, but did not as the “party high command had asked them not to”. Finally the convention was attended only by Atish Sinha, leader of the Congress Legislature Party, and Sudhansu Sil, CPM legislator.

At the sparsely attended programme, speakers criticised Justice Lala’s order and described it as an obstruction to the exercise of democratic rights by the people.

Sinha reminded the audience that Trinamul would again dub the Congress as the ‘B’ team of the CPM for sharing a platform with the communists, but stressed the cause was too important.

“It is impossible to abide by this (Justice Lala’s) order of the high court. Taking out processions is the democratic right of the people and is the most common way to draw the attention of the authorities,” he said. However, he struck a balance, adding: “We should also see to it that the common people is not affected.”

Sil stuck to the CPM’s extreme stand and roundly criticised the high court order.

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