The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rally raj booted out of Brigade
- HC lists dos and don'ts, parties mull appeal

Calcutta, Sept. 24: The Brigade Parade Grounds, the place where the michhil nagari converged in its outcry and the stretch of green that remained a mute witness to the changing face of the nation's political history, can no longer be used for rallies and meetings.

Calcutta High Court today ruled that no construction ' either temporary or permanent and made of steel or iron ' would be allowed on the sprawling ground, which effectively outlaws the paraphernalia that goes into the making of a political rally.

The division bench of acting Chief Justice A.. Roy and Justice A.K. Mitra passed the interim order this afternoon, banishing in the process the slogan that most Calcuttans grew up on ' Brigade chalo.

'No structures, even if it's made of bamboo, are to be put up for any period of time' and it must be ensured that the ground is kept in a condition so that parade can take place at any time of the year,' the bench said.

As the news spread, there was a flurry of activity both in Writers' Buildings and at the offices of various political parties across the city. No party said it would defy the court, but initial reactions suggested that it is a matter of time before the order is challenged before a higher bench.

The ground ' which witnessed Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin making speeches at the height of Indo-Soviet friendship and Mujibur Rehman speaking alongside Indira Gandhi ' would, however, remain open to the public for brief strolls, either in the morning or later.

The ruling came in the wake of a petition filed by the army seeking a modification of earlier orders on the overall control of the ground.

The petition said the ground belonged to the army but state police doled out permission for rallies, meetings and even temporary construction.

The court had sought a reply from the state government. The state in its affidavit today admitted it had no right to issue permission for either temporary or permanent construction on the ground. The admission prompted the bench to pass the order.

Over time, the ground has become a part of Bengal's political lore. It was witness to the speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, Atulya Ghosh, Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. Singh. Even Jyoti Basu and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had joined hands on the ground to denounce Indira Gandhi for the Emergency.

'Even your affidavit says no local government can, on its own, put up any structure, etc on the Brigade Parade Grounds,' the bench said, adding that since the word 'etc' has been incorporated, it was necessary to interpret the ambit of this word.

In keeping with this, the court directed the constitution of a bench that should include, among others, Justice A.K. Banerjee. He had earlier passed an order saying that while the army remained the custodian of the ground, the state was responsible for law and order.

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