|(Top) An anti-Lala placard in a Citu rally in October 2003. Bose after the judgment. Picture and Amit Datta
Calcutta, March 31: Calcutta High Court today asked CPM politburo member Biman Bose to serve a sentence of three days' simple imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs 10,000 for inciting popular sentiment against a judge who had restricted rallies on weekdays in Calcutta.
Bose, who is also chairman of the ruling Left Front, had criticised the judge, Amitava Lala, now serving in Allahabad High Court, for passing the judgment in September 2003.
'This court is of the opinion that Biman Bose's criticisms were not fair and were directed against a particular judge (Justice Lala). Therefore, the comments cannot be regarded within the scope of reasonable criticism of the judgment,' Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly and Justice Sailendra Prasad Talukdar said, bringing to an end one of the most engaging contempt proceedings that started in November 2003.
'The judgment is unexpected, but I am not shocked,' said Bose. 'My remarks were directed neither against the judge nor the judiciary. I have been in active politics for a few decades and I am in direct contact with the people' my remarks about Justice Lala's judgment were meant to reflect the popular mood.'
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said his government, which unsuccessfully tried to formulate a rally code at the behest of the court, would decide on its response to the judgment after consulting legal opinion. 'I have asked the law minister to look into it,' he added.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, the counsel for Bose, said he would appeal in the Supreme Court after receiving a certified copy of the order. The judges accepted his plea and stayed the operation of the order for four weeks.
Thursday's was the second time in five years that Calcutta High Court held Bose guilty of contempt. On the last occasion, it had directed Bose to pay a fine of Rs 2,000 for making certain adverse comments on the judiciary.
The contempt proceedings against Bose were jointly moved by advocates Idris Ali and Kallol Guha Thakurta who filed separate petitions after the CPM leader attacked Lala at a news conference called on October 4, 2003.
Bose had called the meeting to announce the Left Front's plan to hold a rally on October 6 to protest against ' and in complete defiance of ' Lala's order of September 29. The order banned rallies from 8 am to 8 pm on the city's roads on weekdays. 'I cannot be held responsible if someone in the rally chants slogans like Lala, Bangla chhere pala (Lala, get out of Bengal),' Bose had said while mounting an attack on the judge and his order.
Bose had drawn support from political parties of all hues, including the CPM, which described the Lala judgment as an attack on fundamental rights.
The much-criticised judgment, however, set in motion a silent process that has led at least the ruling party to try and not call rallies on weekdays. The main opposition, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress refused to be a party to the rally code the government prepared.
Today, however, she called the order a 'slap in the face' for the CPM.