Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday will pass an order on the petition moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) challenging the state government’s denial of permission to its ‘rath yatra’ rallies in the state. (Also Read: West Bengal Government Denies Permission to BJP to Hold Rath Yatra)
Earlier on Wednesday, the West Bengal government told the Calcutta HC that intelligence reports expressing apprehensions of breach of communal harmony were the reason for denial of permission to BJP’s rallies in the state. Against this, BJP counsel SK Kapoor said that the denial of permission was pre-determined and without any basis. “In the worst days of the British period Mahatma Gandhi held the Dandi March and nobody stopped him but now the government here says it won’t allow a political procession,” he reportedly said.
Kapoor told the court that the state government has not put forward any objective data to bolster its claim and was trying to forcibly stop a political party from holding processions, which is a Constitution-guaranteed right.
The matter will be taken up for hearing again Thursday, when Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty said he will pass an order on the petition moved by the BJP challenging the state government’s denial of permission to its rally.
On the other hand, Advocate General Kishore Dutta said that the stated issues in BJP’s brochure publicising the yatra are communally sensitive in nature. He submitted a sealed report to the court and informed that 2,100 permissions were granted for different political rallies and meetings in West Bengal from 2017, but in this case the ‘rath yatra’ was not allowed owing to the apprehensions.
Appearing for the state police, counsel Anand Grover submitted that the BJP has stated that the programme was of huge proportion with three ‘rath yatras’ beginning from three parts of the state and covering all districts spanning 34 days when a total 154 public meetings would be held. This would require huge deployment of security personnel.
He said that if the BJP wishes to hold meetings in a few districts, it can be allowed, but rallies of such a huge proportion cannot be given approval owing to logistical reasons and apprehensions that these rallies may turn into communal propaganda, as expressed in the intelligence reports. To this, Kapoor said his party wants to hold the rallies to generate public opinion that may go against the ruling party in the state and it is the duty of the police to control and maintain law and order.
The BJP and the West Bengal government are at loggerheads over the issue since a long time now. On December 6, a single-judge bench of the HC had refused to give permission to the BJP to hold the yatra, which was scheduled to be flagged off by BJP national president Amit Shah from Cooch Behar in North Bengal on December 7, following which the party had approached the division bench.
The division bench on December 7 asked the West Bengal chief secretary, the home secretary and the director general of police to hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP and take a decision on the ‘yatra’ by December 14.
The state government after parleys with the three-member team had refused permission for the ‘rath yatra’ on December 15 on the grounds that it might lead to communal tension.
(Inputs from PTI)