The judiciary pushed the executive firmly on to the back foot on Thursday as the Maidan case took a definitive turn.
A division bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising Justice Asim Kumar Banerjee and Justice R.N. Sinha, hauled up the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for failing to protect and preserve the Maidan.
'The government should be more careful about cleaning up the Maidan. It is the responsibility of the government to mobilise its departments to immediately clear the refuse and debris dumped there,' said Justice Banerjee, senior judge of the bench.
With the Calcutta Book Fair round the corner, the high court would be keeping an eye on the government's mop-up initiative on the Maidan after the fair.
Government pleader Rabilal Moitra said: 'If the venue for popular annual programmes like the Calcutta Book Fair is shifted, those who frequent such programmes will not be drawn to the new venue in such large numbers.'
He argued that the Maidan has its distinct charm, with its outdoor allure. 'Ordinary people from the city will not feel enthused enough to go to a fair that is held somewhere along the Bypass,' he argued.
The court, however, disagreed, observing that places like Science City and Salt Lake stadium still figure high as major crowd-pullers in the city.
'While tickets to Science City programmes are sold out, the stadium has a capacity to seat 1.25 lakh for a football match,' observed Justice Banerjee. At this point, Moitra argued that 'Salt Lake stadium no longer draws enough crowds', only to face more flak from the court.
'The seats of Salt Lake stadium are no longer fully occupied not because the stadium has lost its appeal, but because of the lack of conveyance. If the government took the initiative to connect places like Salt Lake stadium to Calcutta proper through efficient bus services and the like, the galleries of the stadium would have automatically filled up,' Justice Banerjee observed.
He added that the Calcutta Book Fair, in particular, was a sentimental favourite that transcended geographical limitations.
'I myself am invited to the Calcutta Book Fair every year, and I know that no matter where it is held, I will go and visit it at least once,' Justice Banerjee asserted.
The court then instructed the government to clear the Maidan of all debris, immediately. The government must also ensure that the Maidan is thoroughly cleaned up after the Calcutta Book Fair chapter is shut.
Moitra interjected again, reasoning with the court that the state government was responsible and never shirked its duties.
The bench brushed that aside, and narrated how the public works department had been working on the Calcutta High Court premises, and had left a lot of debris and building waste material piled up.