The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Appeal in court, contempt on street

Calcutta, Oct. 12: Tomorrow, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government will move court for the second time, contesting Justice Amitava Lala’s ruling restricting rallies.

Moving court is not really necessary because the government, its police force and, above all, its party muscle have already made the order toothless.

Tomorrow, while the government counsel respectfully argues before the judiciary, the chief minister’s party — its youth wing — will mock the court in Calcutta’s streets with a rally through the centre of the city in the middle of a working day, exactly what Justice Lala had barred.

The chief minister’s police, who are supposed to enforce the ruling, are silently colluding in the order’s violation by pleading helplessness.

“We will try our best to keep normal flow of traffic. However, we are helpless if we are faced with thousands of people marching down the city roads. In such cases, if we try to force rallyists out of the streets, there may be a serious law and order problem,” said deputy commissioner of traffic M.K. Singh.

For all the “law and order” it maintains, the police need not be there, really, because at least the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the organiser of tomorrow’s rally and a CPM affiliate, barely acknowledges their presence.

Its leader, Abdul Hai, said they had informed the police but had not yet received permission. And they are not waiting for it.

“We have told them about our rally and the police have not said no. So, the rally is on. On earlier occasions, too, the police have never said no to any rally held by us.”

For holding a rally, it would appear informing the police is enough. Organisers of two other rallies this week also seem to have informed the police.

Breaking his silence since the order was passed, Bhattacharjee today issued a statement that tried to keep everyone happy. “The government is aware that the rights of political parties and other organisations should not be curtailed and the holding of rallies should not inconvenience the public,” he said.

That may not be the chief minister’s order of priorities, but the statement affirmed the government’s resolve to fight the order prohibiting rallies on weekdays between 8 am and 8 pm.

“We would seek justice from the high court on the issue tomorrow,” Bhattacharjee said.

His government had appealed unsuccessfully on October 2 against Justice Lala’s order to a two-judge vacation bench. Tomorrow’s appeal will also be heard by a vacation bench but the judges will be different.

Reflecting possibly the new-found awareness that “rallies should not inconvenience the public”, tomorrow’s organisers have decided not to disrupt traffic.

“We never took out processions that blocked roads or caused inconvenience to the common people. This time, too, we will not do it. We will not put anybody in trouble,” Hai said.

Sources in the CPM said the procession would march in a single file, taking the left flank of the road.

The police have been “advised” to provide escorts in the rear and front of the procession and to station personnel on either side, if necessary, so that a passage for movement of traffic is open.

In keeping with the trend seen after the rally order, the ruling Left Front has taken the lead in flouting the judiciary. Nine organisations that will participate in tomorrow’s rally include student and youth wings of front constituents.


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