New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the West Bengal government to allow proposed public meetings and rallies of the BJP under its “Ganatantra Bachao Yatra”. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the BJP’s West Bengal unit to submit a revised schedule of its proposed ‘Rath Yatra’ with the authorities and seek necessary approvals.
The bench also comprising Justices L N Rao and SK Kaul asked the West Bengal government to consider the revised schedule of the BJP for ‘Rath Yatra’ keeping in mind the fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution. The bench said the apprehension of the state government of possible law and order situation cannot be called “unfounded” and BJP will have to take all possible steps to address the apprehension in a reasonable manner.
The top court had earlier sought response from the state government on BJP’s plea seeking permission to take out ‘Rath Yatra’ in the state. The BJP’s Bengal unit challenged the December 21 order of a division bench of the Calcutta High Court, which had set aside the order of a single-judge bench allowing the procession.
It had also asked the BJP state unit to submit a revised plan for its ‘save democracy rally’ for consideration by the state government. The BJP has now decided to cut short its 40-day programme to 20 and the fresh ‘Yatras’ would start from Baharampur in Murshidabad district, Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas district, Medinipur and the Lok Sabha constituency of Kolkata North, a lawyer associated with the matter said, adding that the decision was taken in view of the upcoming school examinations and the general elections.
Earlier, the BJP’s West Bengal unit had approached the apex court seeking permission to take out the rally, which would cover 42 parliamentary constituencies in the state. In its plea, the BJP has said that their fundamental right to hold a peaceful ‘Yatra’ cannot be withheld.
The high court’s division bench had sent the case back to a single-judge bench to hear it afresh and also to consider the intelligence inputs by state agencies. The order of the division bench had come after hearing an appeal moved by the West Bengal government challenging the order of the single-judge bench.
The rallies, according to the original schedule, were supposed to be flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah from Cooch Behar district on December 7, Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas on December 9, and from Tarapith temple in Birbhum on December 14.
In the plea filed in the top court, the BJP’s West Bengal unit contended that authorities cannot abridge their right and they have a duty to facilitate them in exercising their democratic right. The BJP alleged in the plea that the state government was repeatedly “attacking” the fundamental right of citizens due to which different petitions have been filed challenging the activities of the state government in denying permission to different organisations. It has claimed that earlier too, permission was denied several times at the last moment to “harass the BJP” which later moved the high court and that the party “is facing such political vendetta since 2014 in West Bengal”.