The time for the government and the railways to evict squatters along the Dhakuria Lakes starts now.
Calcutta High Court on Friday rejected environment activist Subhas Dutta's plea for permission to withdraw his public interest litigation (PIL) for preservation of Rabindra Sarobar, and signalled the final countdown to the eviction of 20,000-odd illegal settlers.
Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly cited a Supreme Court ruling in turning down Dutta's request: 'The apex court has strictly ruled that the petitioner of a PIL should not be allowed to withdraw his case halfway, as these matters involve public welfare'.
The court went on to reject the petition moved by squatters, requesting that the deadline for the eviction drive ' November 30 ' be pushed back by three months.
At the hearing in a packed courtroom, state advocate-general Balai Ray urged the division bench to direct that the planned eviction be completed within the scheduled time.
'If the eviction is deferred, it will be difficult for the government to carry out the court order. The petition moved by the squatters today is politically motivated,' he argued.
The division bench stressed that eviction must be carried out by November 30. It also directed the state government to appoint six officers ' not below the rank of assistant commissioners ' by 6 pm on Friday to act as key functionaries in the eviction drive.
'From today, the officials must approach all squatters and ask them to give an undertaking within a week, saying they will leave. By the second week, they must go, and if they don't, the government must ensure that shanties are demolished,' the judges held.
Also, by December 23, the government must get back to the court with a compliance report stating that the order had been carried out.
This report should state that apart from evicting squatters, the area along the railway tracks between Dhakuria and Tollygunge has been cleaned up and barbed wires placed on both sides in order to prevent anyone from settling along this stretch again.
Later in the day, chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb confirmed that the eviction process would be completed by November 30.
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's response: 'We will fight to the end to stop the eviction drive.'