The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court clips cop wings on Maidan control

The battle between the army and the state over the control of the Brigade Parade Grounds has taken a twist, with a high court division bench curtailing the power of the city police to grant permission for using the green stretch.

'The city police and the government have no authority to give permission for using the ground till they are satisfied that the army has already given permission to the applicant,' the division bench of Justice Ashim Kumar Banerjee and Justice R.N. Sinha ruled on Thursday.

While clarifying an earlier order of the court, the bench said the army enjoys overall control of the grounds by virtue of being the sole custodian. 'The army is the custodian of the Brigade Parade Grounds and it has the authority to look after the upkeep of the area,' the bench observed.

It, however, asked army counsel Uttam Majumdar whether his client had any plan to beautify the green.

'We are passing order after order affirming the responsibility of your client in regard to the grounds. But the conditions there are still bad. Do you have any plan to develop the area' the judges asked.

Majumdar replied: 'We cannot chalk out plans for beautification unless we get custody of the entire area.'

Thursday's order was on a petition filed by Majumdar, seeking clarification of an order passed by another division bench on November 24.

The bench, presided over by acting Chief Justice A.N. Roy, had ruled that the army's permission was mandatory even for erecting a temporary structure on the green.

'The order has been misinterpreted by the state government. Police are first giving permission to various organisers for using the ground and then asking them to take an approval from the army for setting up a pandal,' the army lawyer submitted.

Environment activist Subhas Dutta, who initiated the case in the high court, urged for an order directing the authorities to take special measures for preserving the green.

'The petition was based on environmental concerns. The ground has lost its attraction. A good number of trees have been felled. Moreover, the authorities are allowing fairs on the grounds and even construction of air-conditioned pandals,' Dutta submitted.

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