Shortly after the Calcutta High Court on Thursday approved the petition moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that challenged the West Bengal government's denial of permission to hold rath yatra rallies in the state, reports said that the state will now move a court division bench on 21 December against the verdict. The court granted the BJP permission for three yatras and directed that the administration should ensure that there is no breach of law and order.
The rath yatras will be a part of the BJP's "Save Democracy Rally".
The court's decision comes a day after West Bengal government told the Calcutta High Court that intelligence reports expressing apprehensions of breach of communal harmony were the reason for denial of permission to BJP's rallies in the state.
Countering the state government's stand, BJP counsel SK Kapoor had alleged that the denial of permission was pre-determined and without any basis, adding that "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".
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.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted a sealed report to the court, and said that the stated issues in BJP's brochure publicising the yatra are communally sensitive in nature. He submitted that the court has a limited scope of judicial review in an administrative decision to not allow the yatra on the basis of intelligence inputs and apprehensions of communal tension.
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 different parts of the state and covering all districts spanning 34 days, when a total 154 public meetings would be held. This would require deploying security personnel in large numbers.
He added 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.
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. Alleging that the denial of permission was pre-determined and without any basis, Kapoor claimed that this was a return to the police state.
BJP protests across West Bengal
The BJP's West Bengal unit Wednesday organised 'law violation programme' in various parts of the state to protest the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government's refusal to allow the proposed Rath Yatra programme in the state.
BJP activists clashed with the police in Howrah, South Dinajpur and Hooghly district after the party was denied permission for a protest meeting.
"We are forced to hold law violation programmes because the police and the administration is behaving like cadres of the TMC. We were denied permission to hold our Save Democracy rally. Now when we want to organise protest meeting, that too has been denied," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said while addressing the law violation programme in Howrah.
"We are a political party which is running the government at the Centre. The state government is behaving in such a way as if we are a party of extremists. We are a party of nationalist forces," he said. It is only in West Bengal that Opposition parties are not allowed to hold rallies, Ghosh added.
TMC denied BJP permission to hold yatra twice
Previously, on 6 December a single-judge bench of the HC denied permission to BJP president Amit Shah's proposed rath yatra from Cooch Behar, on grounds that it might cause communal tension. Following this, the party had approached the division bench.
The division bench on 7 December 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 14 December.
The state government had also refused permission for the rath yatra on 15 December on the same grounds as on 6 December.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2018 15:24:57 IST