The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt tells court of law to rein rallies

Calcutta, Nov. 14: The Bengal government, which opposed Justice Amitava Lala’s September 29 ruling restricting rallies, has told Calcutta High Court that it is working towards enacting a law that will impose “reasonable” curbs on the freedom to march.

The paper-book, comprising the latest government affidavit and every rally-related order and appeal since Justice Lala’s verdict, was filed in the court yesterday. And, although riders (like “reasonable solution”) are added to this admission of intent, the very fact that the government has told the court of a decision to “enact” a “law” suggests it has made up its mind to follow the original rally restrictions in spirit.

“The state is trying to evolve (a) reasonable solution to this problem by enacting a law by way of a consensus” is how the paper-book quotes the government’s latest position in a legal battle of concern to every citizen.

The stand the government has taken makes it clear that any attempt to enact and enforce the law will require a consensus among all political parties. The largest Opposition party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, has already said it is not going to obey any government-initiated attempt at imposing rally discipline.

But the intent to enact a law in no uncertain terms and the submission of the paper-book within the period stipulated by the division bench, comprising Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice S.P. Talukdar, show a definite turnaround in the government’s position since its first response of opposing Justice Lala’s order.

The last section of the paper-book, recording the administration’s final response in court, says: “The advocate-general has, of course, assured the court that the state government is also anxious to control the manner in which sometimes processions are taken out.”

“It has also been admitted before us that the enjoyment of the fundamental right of some (to assemble peacefully and without arms) cannot cause total detriment to others and the state… is trying to evolve (a) reasonable solution to this problem by enacting a law by way of consensus,” it adds.

The division bench of Justice Ganguly and Justice Talukdar was convened when the court was enjoying a vacation to hear the government’s arguments against Justice Lala’s order. This original judgment banished rallies of every type from Calcutta’s streets from 8 am to 8 pm on all days except Sundays and public holidays.

But Justice Ganguly and Justice Talukdar, after hearing the government’s reservations about the order, stayed its operation and referred the case to the regular division bench. The government, represented by an unprecedented collection of its full arsenal (led by state advocate-general Balai Ray and even comprising Tripura advocate-general Tarun Ray), said Justice Lala’s verdict was untenable as it was beyond his jurisdiction to decide on a suo motu contempt notice he issued.

Hearing of the government’s petition against Justice Lala’s order is expected to be held shortly.

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