The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Affidavit call in Sarobar slap
- Court frowns at eviction fiasco

Calcutta High Court has hauled up Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government for its failure to carry out judicial orders and evict nearly 25,000 squatters along the railway tracks off Rabindra Sarobar.

'So you are saying that the state government is not in a position to carry out the order of the apex court of the country' Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar asked advocate-general Balai Ray on Friday.

The court reacted sharply when the advocate-general said the drive against the squatters, originally slated for March 2, had been abandoned fearing a clash between police and squatters. 'The government had no option but to postpone it,' said Ray in defence

'Can your government state this in affidavits' You are saying that you have stalled the eviction programme fearing a disaster. There will be a greater disaster if a government says that it has no machinery to carry out the order of the court,' observed the chief justice.

All Ray could say to that was: 'You are absolutely right' We only pray for some more time. The order of the court must be carried out.'

The division bench fixed the matter for hearing on April 8, when the 'commissioner of city police will have to be present and say what steps are being taken to carry out the order of the court'.

The chief justice termed as 'strange' the fact that the police 'went to the spot to evict the squatters and returned without carrying out the job'. The force was asked to back down following instructions from the top not to risk a showdown and widespread trouble.

Appearing for the railways on Friday, advocate R.N. Das pointed out how the state government had provided ration cards and electric supply to the squatters.

'Why did you not object at the time the government was issuing them ration cards' the chief justice demanded of the railway counsel.

The division bench then asked the government to file an affidavit showing reasons behind the decision not to evict the settlers and also stating when it would be in a position to carry out the eviction order served by both the high court and the Supreme Court.

The bench also asked the Calcutta Improvement Trust to furnish a map of Rabindra Sarobar and its surrounding areas on April 8.

'We want an idea about the area. We will see whether it is possible to prevent the squatters from entering the Sarobar area by putting up a barbed wire for the time being,' said the court.

Environment activist and petitioner in the case Subhas Dutta told the bench that the squatters were identifying him as the villain of the piece. 'My only intention was to save the Lakes' But now I am receiving threat calls,' Dutta told the court.

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