The Calcutta High Court on Thursday said it cannot give permission at this stage for the BJP rally in Coochbehar, scheduled to be flagged off by party president Amit Shah on Friday, after the West Bengal government refused to allow the event on the grounds that it might cause communal tension.
The court directed that superintendents of police of all districts in West Bengal will file a report by December 21 to it on the holding of ‘Save democracy rath yatra’ rallies by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after hearing all the district presidents of the party.
Directing that the rally stands deferred till the next date of hearing on January 9, Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty observed that the prayer of BJP for permission to hold the ‘rath yarta’ cannot be granted at this stage.
The BJP was scheduled to hold three ‘rath yatras’ that will start from different parts and traverse all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies.
It had moved the court seeking a direction to the state government for giving permission for its rallies after its applications allegedly went unanswered,
The BJP campaign was scheduled to begin from Cooch Behar district in the north on December 7, from Kakdwip in the South 24 Parganas district on December 9, and from the Tarapith temple in Birbhum district on December 14.
State advocate general Kishore Dutta told the court that the Cooch Behar superintendent of police refused permission for the BJP president’s rath yatra from Friday. The state government submitted that it might cause communal tension in the district.
Dutta said the district has a history of communal issues and that there was information that some “communal provocators” and rowdy elements had become active there.
The SP’s refusal letter also noted that several top BJP leaders would come to Coochbehar, as also people from other states, stating that these may affect the communally sensitive district.
The refusal of permission was an administrative decision in view of the ground situation, the AG said, adding that “details of apprehension” cannot be spelt out in open court due to their sensitive nature and he can submit these to the court in a sealed cover, if directed.
The BJP told the court that it will hold peaceful rallies.
Asked by the judge as to who will take responsibility if anything untoward happens, BJP counsel Anindya Mitra submitted that the party will hold a peaceful rally, but it was the duty of the state government to maintain law and order.
Mitra submitted that the Constitution guarantees the right to hold political programmes.
He said that assumption of untoward situation cannot be a ground for refusal.
When the judge asked if he was agreeable to deferment, the BJP counsel answered in the negative and said that the party had started preparations for long and had approached the administration for permission in October.
He submitted that “it is only now that they have refused permission after sitting on the applications for long.”
The advocate general also opposed the BJP filing a supplementary affidavit opposing the refusal of permission, saying it can either come with a fresh petition or an amendment to his petition.