The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Save-ground cry to court
- Legal experts say PIL can pave way for guidelines on Maidan

Calcutta, Dec. 25: File a PIL, save the Maidan.

Several serving and retired high court judges today called for court intervention to save the lungs of Calcutta.

Justice Bhagwati Prasad Banerjee, who as a high court judge had presided over the green bench, said the lungs of Calcutta could only be saved if the high court prescribes a set of guidelines.

'For preparing the guidelines, someone has to file a public interest litigation (PIL) and then the court can take action,' he said. 'This will be really in the interest of the public because it is the only way to save the city's greenery.'

The former judge also raised questions about the army's rights over the Maidan.

The army had earlier resolved to protect Brigade Parade Grounds and denied permission to the CPM-backed Co-ordination Committee of State Government Employees and Associations to hold a rally there on December 28. A CPM rally is also scheduled there on January 8.

However, following pressure from politicians in Delhi and Calcutta, the army granted permission for the December 28 rally.

Reacting to the contention that the army, as the court-recognised custodian of the Maidan, could decide on the acceptance or rejection of applications for commercial or political use of the Maidan, a serving judge said the custodian status needed to be revisited. 'Who decided that Maidan is army's land' As far my knowledge goes, nothing has been mentioned in the law to validate this claim,' he said, requesting anonymity.

In September, the high court curtailed the police's power to grant permission for using the Maidan, making the army the custodian.

Another former judge also criticised the Eastern Command for 'playing favourites' while granting permission for fairs.

Army officials had earlier said that to restore the Maidan to its pristine glory, they would not allow rallies and fairs. This would be the last year the book fair and trade fairs would be allowed, they had said.

'The army has no right to do this. Maidan is a public property and they (army) have no right to discriminate,' the former judge said.

The army's role as custodian should to be examined in the light of a growing perception that the rejection of certain applications was arbitrary, he added.

Another former judge pointed out that rallies and fairs leave behind a lot of litter ' a nuisance which must be stopped. 'Firm laws should be framed, barring rallies at the Brigade,' he said.

The green lobby has earlier demanded that the Maidan be put under the direct purview of the high court.

Environmental activist Subhash Dutta has demanded a code of conduct on use of the Maidan and open spaces in the city.

An expert committee appointed by the high court should lay down the code, he had said.

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