The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rally & bandh muscle under apex court glare

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Politicians might lose the right to use “official machinery” or state police to enforce their writ during bandhs, rallies or processions.

The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government, asking them to explain why it shouldn’t lay down norms to prevent such “misuse” by parties and people in power.

“We don’t expect state machinery to be used during bandhs and rallies,” Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said after admitting a public interest litigation filed by G.D. Goyal, a former journalist from Madhya Pradesh.

The apex court, however, refused to look into specific accusations that railway minister Lalu Prasad and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati had used state machinery to ensure a large turnout at their rallies last month.

Goyal said Lalu Prasad had earmarked 25 to 35 trains to carry people from different parts of India to Patna for the Chetavani rally against the Bihar government, resulting in the diversion of 57 other trains. He claimed that people were not issued tickets at some counters at Delhi railway station.

Goyal said Mayavati held a rally on the same day in Chandigarh and her convoy of 50 cars caused traffic jams. He added that crores were spent to organise a rally in Lucknow recently, allegedly at the chief minister’s instance, on the birth anniversary of her late mentor Kanshi Ram.

The chief justice, however, asked Goyal to delete the names of the two leaders from the petition and, instead, include all the state governments.

Goyal said politicians could bring entire cities to a halt whenever they wanted.

“Such gross mismanagement of public funds at the hands of powerful politicians… causes reckless waste of time, money and energy, and harassment to ordinary citizens,” he said.

“Politicians,” he added, “feel they are above the law.”

The petition said politicians want to show off their public following and “crores are spent” and “distributed” to get people to attend their rallies and processions.

“In the process, busy roads have traffic jams. This results in embarrassment, physical inconvenience and mental torture for citizens.”

Even fire brigades and ambulances cannot move through the clogged roads despite emergency calls, Goyal added.

He alleged that police were often “silent spectators” to such harassment.

“Although police power is limited, most of it is used to organise rallies or the security of politicians and participants in rallies,” the petition said, while the common man was at the “mercy” of local musclemen.

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