In a major setback to the Mamata Banerjee-led government, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday allowed the state BJP to hold its proposed rath yatras, which was scheduled to be flagged off by party chief Amit Shah, across West Bengal. The court also directed the administration to ensure that there is no breach of law and order.
Laying down a set of conditions to avoid trouble, the single bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty said the yatras must not cause any inconvenience to the public and must be peaceful in nature. Besides, the state police must be prepared 12 hours in advance. Read in Bangla.
The BJP has welcomed the verdict, calling it a “victory of democracy”.
“It is a victory of democracy and the people of West Bengal. It is a defeat of those who are murdering democracy here. The state government without any reason had said that this Rath Yatra will deteriorate the law and order situation here. The court has rejected this theory and said it is the duty of the administration to ensure law and order and directed it to provide adequate security to all three of our rallies. The court has asked us to conduct the rallies peacefully and we will abide by that. The court has also directed us to inform respective district administrations 12 hours prior to our yatras entering those districts. We welcome this verdict,” said state BJP vice-president Joy Prakash Majumdar who was present at the hearing.
Justice Chakraborty had given BJP lawyers 15 minutes to make their final argument and the state government 10 minutes to present their counter-argument before delivering the verdict.
The saffron party had moved the court on Monday after the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government had denied it permission, for the second time, to hold the yatras. Despite holding a meeting with the party leaders last week, the government had on Saturday said, in a letter to BJP, that it would not be able to grant permission to take out the rallies due to law and order concerns.
In a letter to the BJP, the state government had said, “The areas proposed to be covered by the yatra are, because of publicity and propaganda, gradually turning into communally sensitive pockets. Intelligence reports indicate that public perception is that the religious overtones of the yatra will be turned into communal propaganda. Furthermore, during the period cited, major festivals and events are scheduled, and it requires a heavy deployment of the resources of the government, including the police force. We are therefore of the opinion that, for the reasons which have been elaborately mentioned. it is not possible to allow the yatra as proposed by the BJP.”
The BJP slammed the state government for deliberately stalling their scheduled political programme. “We welcome this verdict. We were ready to abide by the conditions which have been laid down by the court on our Rath Yatras. We had agreed to abide by similar condition before but the state government deliberately stalled our yatras by making baseless arguments. We thank the court and the people of the state for their support. Now we will sit and decide fresh dates for our Rath Yatra,” said West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh.
On Tuesday, the court directed the TMC to submit a video recording of the meeting held between the BJP leaders and state government officials which at taken place at Lalbazar. The BJP has proposed to take out yatras from Cooch Behar, Sagar Island and Tarapith on December 22, 24 and 26 respectively.
State BJP vice-president Joy Prakash Majumdar had earlier said, “The state government is trying its best to stop our rath yatras. However, we will hold such rallies after getting permission from court. We have full faith in judiciary and we will get justice.”
(With Inputs from Santanu Chowdhury)