The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Set a cop to vet pandals
- Told of road guideline flout, court seeks police monitor

Wanted: A 'responsible, sincere and senior police officer'.
Mission: Policing pandals, pre-Puja.
At stake: Free and fair passage to the festivities.

Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the state government to find a police officer capable of ensuring that Durga puja committees toe the festive guidelines.

The task at hand ' mission impossible, say puja observers ' is to prevent pandals from encroaching on roads by violating the construction rules framed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and Calcutta Police, and approved by court.

The division bench of Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly, in its order, stated that police must take strong measures against puja organisers found violating the norms.

'A report will have be placed before this court on September 30, by the policeman assigned for the job. The person concerned will also have to be present in court during the placing of the report,' the division bench ordered.

The court order followed a petition by Tapan Mitra, a resident of Dover Lane, in south Calcutta, alleging that many puja committees, including one in his area, were not following the guidelines and encroaching on the thoroughfare.

The petitioner sought court intervention and action against the puja committee for violating the road rules. Otherwise, thousands of residents of the area will be inconvenienced yet again, he observed.

Mitra's public interest litigation in January had set the ball rolling for the framing of guidelines to facilitate a free passage for pandal-hoppers, residents and commuters.

As per the guidelines, organisers must keep at least 50 per cent or 12 ft of the road free for vehicular movement. But the Singhi Park Sarbojanin Durgotsav Committee had flouted that, alleged the petitioner, adding that 'many other pandals are also encroaching the full width of roads'.

Government pleader Rabilal Moitra opposed the petition and said police had kept a strict vigil on pandals coming up.

Chief Justice Sirpurkar then asked Moitra whether every puja committee was carrying out the directives.

Moitra told the court that each and every committee had been asked to adhere to the norms. But the bench felt it fit to seek a report from a police officer appointed to carry out a survey to assess the ground reality, with a fortnight to go for the Pujas.s

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