The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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War of words over venue
- Mela on Maidan: Hearing to continue today

The battle for Book Fair 2007 is going down to the wire. With three weeks to go for the scheduled start to the 32nd edition of the fair, arguments and counter arguments over the venue continue in the courtroom.

On Wednesday afternoon, Calcutta High Court was witness to a two-hour war of words, with environment activist Subhas Dutta, advocate Arunava Ghosh and trade fair organisers G.S. Marketing opposing the Maidan being used as the Book Fair venue.

The Publishers and BooksSellers Guild, with the state government, army, pollution control board and the fire services department on its side, wants to hold the fair from January 31 on the Maidan.

In a public interest litigation (PIL), filed on January 3, it sought instructions from the court to allow the fair on the Maidan, its “original site”.

Advocate Ghosh has questioned how the Guild, a profit-making private body, can file a PIL, besides highlighting earlier court orders banning fairs on the Maidan.

“Prima facie, we do not consider this case a PIL. Why should the court interfere in the matter, when the army has virtually agreed to allow the Guild to hold a fair on the Maidan'” observed the division bench of Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice K. K. Prasad.

The army, as custodian of the Maidan, filed an affidavit, saying it was against any event or fair on the Maidan.

“But the state government has approached the ministry of defence and we have been instructed that if the court gives the go-ahead, we can allow the Guild to hold the fair on the Maidan,” the army lawyer clarified.

The Guild and the state government spoke the same language by describing the Book Fair as a “festival” and “cultural event”.

Subhas Dutta is contesting the Guild on environmental grounds, referring to cases on the issue since 2002.

G.S. Marketing, organisers of International Mega Trade Fair, has raised the issue of discrimination.

“Ours is also an international event, with participation from 45 countries. But we were not allowed to hold the fair on the Maidan,” pointed out its lawyer.

The hearing will resume, post-lunch, on Thursday.

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