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Panel monitoring Covid norms’ compliance at Gangasagar Mela to be reconstituted: HC

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Kesang Doma Bhutia ruled that a two-member committee will keep vigil on the Mela instead of three-member committee as was planned earlier.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
January 12, 2022 4:54:48 am
The panel has been empowered to recommend a ban on entry of devotees to Sagar Island at South 24 Parganas district if Covid-19 rules are violated.

A day after the state government filed a review petition against the inclusion of Leader of Opposition of West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari in the committee to monitor compliance with Covid-19 guidelines at the Gangasagar Mela, the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday reviewed its order and stated that the committee appointed by it will be reconstituted.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Kesang Doma Bhutia ruled that a two-member committee will keep vigil on the Mela instead of three-member committee as was planned earlier.

The order said, “The order dated January 7, 2022 is modified and substituted by constituting a two-member committee comprising Smt. Samapti Chatterjee, Retired Judge of the Calcutta High Court as Chairperson and Member Secretary, West Bengal Legal Services Authority as member, who will keep vigil in respect of compliance of the directions contained in the order dated 7th of January, 2022 and the measures suggested by the Calcutta HC.

State in the affidavit dated 6th of January, 2022. Secretary, Home will extend all requisite assistance including arrangements for transportation, security etc. to the above Committee. In case of any shortcoming in compliance of the direction of this Court is noticed or it is found that gathering in Mela is leading to spread of COVID virus then the Committee will make a recommendation to the State without any delay to ban entry in the Sagar Islands, on which the competent authority of the State will take immediate action.”

In its January 7 order, the Calcutta High Court had called for a three-member committee — comprising Adhikari, the chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission or his representative and a state government representative —to be formed to oversee compliance with Covid-10 guidelines at the Gangasagar Mela, which is slated to begin from January 14.

The panel has been empowered to recommend a ban on entry of devotees to Sagar Island at South 24 Parganas district if Covid-19 rules are violated.

The West Bengal government filed a review petition while objecting to the inclusion of the Leader of Opposition in the committee. According to the government, the Leader of Opposition of the state Assembly can not give a neutral view as he or she is a political person.

After hearing the review petition on Monday, the High Court also directed that the entire Sagar Island where the Mela will be organised, should be announced as notified area. In its earlier order too, the Court gave the same order but the district administration had announced only the Mela ground as notified area. The decision was later challenged, leading the High Court to reiterate its decision.

The bench also said, “Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal will ensure that only persons who have received the two doses of COVID vaccination and are having second vaccination certificate are permitted to enter the Sagar Island during the Mela period. Only those who are having COVID negative in RTPCR report within 72 hours, will be permitted to enter the Sagar Islands. The competent authority of the State is directed to issue a notification in terms of Section 3 of Gangasagar Mela Act, 1976 declaring the whole of the area within the Sagar Islands as notified area within 24 hours. The Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal will be personally liable to ensure the compliance of above directions as also the directions contained in the order of this Court dated January 7.”

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) welcomed the decision. TMC MP Shukhendu Shekhar Roy said, “The administration will act according to the court order.”

Criticising the decision, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “It is very unfortunate for a democracy that a government made the impression that a Leader of Opposition is a political person.” Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury said, “It is clear that the Chief Minister wanted the Gangasagar Mela to be held even if there is a huge surge of Covid-19 cases and the court gave the judgment to continue the mela. If anything happens after the Mela, the government will say, we cannot do anything because we just followed the court order.”

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