Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court Friday came down heavily on the West Bengal government for not responding to letters of the BJP seeking permission for its rath yatras in the state and directed top officials to take a decision on the processions by December 14.
A division bench of justices Biswanath Somadder and A Mukherjee said the government’s silence on the permission is “astonishing and astounding”.
The court disposed of an appeal by the BJP against a single bench order of Thursday that refused permission for its rath yatra and directed the state to hold the meeting by Wednesday.
The chief secretary and home secretary and the director general of police shall hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP by December 12 and take a decision on the matter by December 14, the court directed.
The court also directed that superintendents of police of all districts in West Bengal will file a report by December 21 to it on holding of ‘rath yatra’ rallies by the BJP, after hearing all the district chiefs of the party.
Observing that an injunction upon the petitioner could not have been passed by the single bench, the division bench modified its ad interim order of Thursday.
The division bench criticised the state government for not responding to the BJP’s letters for permission to hold three rath yatras in the state.
The single bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty had on Thursday said it cannot give permission at this stage for the BJP rath yatra in Coochbehar, which was scheduled to be flagged off by party president Amit Shah on Friday, after the state government refused to allow the event on the grounds that it might cause communal tension.
He directed that the rally stands deferred till the next date of hearing on January 9.
The rath yatra in Coochbehar was slated to be the first of the three by BJP before the Lok Sabha polls next year. The other two were to be held on December 9 from Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district and on December 14 from Tarapith temple in Birbhum district.
The rath yatras were supposed to cover all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state.
Passing the order, the division bench observed that keeping the matter pending till January 9 will virtually render the petition infructuous or merely an academic exercise as three-fourth of the proposed scheduled dates for holding of the yatra would be over by that time.
The division bench said there was no plausible reason for the observation by the single bench – “Needless to say, the rally stands deferred till next date of hearing” on January 9.
“This observation in the nature of a mandatory injunction upon the petitioner in their own petition was perhaps quite unnecessary,” the division bench said.
It said Justice Chakraborty had passed an injunction on the petitioner in their own petition, specially after specifically opining that reliefs sought for could not be granted at this stage.
The BJP had prayed for direction to the state authorities to grant cooperation/permission/administrative support to organise the three yatras, the party’s lawyer Phiroze Edulji said.
The division bench observed during the hearing that the state cannot be so unreasonable not to allow another party to hold a rally.
Appearing for the BJP, counsel Anindya Mitra submitted that the party had written to the state authorities first on October 29 and several more times thereafter for discussion on modalities of holding the rallies, but did not receive any response from either the home secretary or the DGP.
Mitra submitted that the single bench has also deferred the yatras from Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district and Tarapith temple in Birbhum district and claimed that this was beyond the scope of the matter before the court.
He claimed that such denial amounts to violation of the party’s constitutional rights.
Mitra submitted that there was no expression of opinion from the state that there is a problem in giving permission for the yatras from Kakdwip and Birbhum.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta for the state submitted that Coochbehar has a history of communal clashes and that there are intelligence inputs of possible disturbance to peace if the yatra was allowed to be held.
As such, permission for the rath yatra from Coochbehar was refused by the district superintendent of police, Dutta told the court.