A division bench of the Calcutta High Court Friday stayed a single-judge bench order that had allowed the BJP to hold its rath yatra programme in West Bengal. The division bench also asked the single-judge bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty to hear the case afresh and consider intelligence inputs by state agencies before taking a decision.
Days after the Mamata Banerjee government denied the BJP permission to hold the rath yatra citing apprehensions of communal unrest, the single-judge bench Thursday had said that courts can “interfere” if the administration exercises its discretionary power in a “whimsical and unreasonable manner”. Justice Chakraborty had also laid down a set of conditions for the BJP and the state administration.
A day later, the Calcutta High Court division bench of Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Justice Shampa Sarkar set aside the order, which the state government had challenged.
Appearing for the state government, lawyer and Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that all intelligence reports were not taken into consideration by the single bench before delivering its verdict Thursday.
“The division bench has set aside yesterday’s order and reverted it to the single bench. The court today said that the single bench needs to go through all intelligence reports before delivering a verdict on this,” said a counsellor appearing for the state government.
According to PTI, the division bench noted that the intelligence reports were placed before the single bench, but were not considered on objection by the petitioner BJP. The division bench said that when comprehensive reports obtained from district magistrates, superintendents of police, commissioners and intelligence agencies of all the districts were made available, the single bench should have considered those.
Following Friday’s order, the BJP said they will move the court again to get permission for the rath yatras. “We will first examine the division bench order and then decide whether to move the single bench again or the Supreme Court. Today, the court has not ruled out the Rath Yatras. So there is still scope to fight it in the court of law,” said West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh.
He also said that the BJP will continue to hold protest meets to condemn the state government’s attempts to stall the rath yatras.
Incidentally, Friday was the last working day of Calcutta High Court before the 10-day Christmas vacation. As a result, the BJP will have to move the court in 2019.
“The court has asked us to go back to the single bench which will look at the intelligence report of the state government on Rath Yatras. We will again explore legal ways to counter this. But it is now clear from Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s participation in the state government’s petition that the TMC and Congress are hand in glove with each other,” state BJP vice-president Joy Prakash Majumdar said.
The ruling TMC, however, welcomed the division bench order. “We have full faith in the judiciary and we welcome today’s order. Those who will try to disrupt peace in the state in the name of taking out rath yatra will not be with dealt casually,” said TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee.
The BJP was scheduled to begin its rath yatras from December 7. On December 6, a Calcutta High Court single-judge bench had refused the BJP permission. The party had then approached the division bench, which asked the state Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and DGP to hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP and take a decision by December 14. On December 15, the administration refused permission, following which the BJP moved the HC again on Monday.