24 Nov 2023 7:13 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Friday dismissed an appeal preferred by the West Bengal government against the order of a single-bench which permitting BJP rally near Victoria House in Kolkata on the 29th of November. Earlier, a single bench of Justice Rajasekhar Mantha had allowed the rally upon taking exception to non-application of mind shown through the "computerised rejections" by the...
The Calcutta High Court on Friday dismissed an appeal preferred by the West Bengal government against the order of a single-bench which permitting BJP rally near Victoria House in Kolkata on the 29th of November.
Earlier, a single bench of Justice Rajasekhar Mantha had allowed the rally upon taking exception to non-application of mind shown through the "computerised rejections" by the Kolkata police. The agency had reasoned that the petitioners had not applied within the requisite time according to advisories issued by the State.
Today, a division bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya upheld the the single bench decision and held:
The advisory says applications need to be made 2/3 weeks prior to the program. Here, the application has been made 23 days prior. The advisory is not a statute. It cannot be taken as a rigid rule, and there is discretion vested with the authorities. Processions meetings and rallies are regular features of the state of West Bengal and particularly Kolkata…many instances are there where rallies have been held without any permission. There are instances where such rallies paralyse the city's traffic and the police are unable to control the same. In view of this, we are unable to interfere with the single bench’s order. Accordingly, the appeal stands dismissed. Since the terms and conditions have been laid down in the Kolkata Police website, they shall be adhered to, and thus the writ petition is disposed of.
Senior Advocate Kishore Datta appearing on behalf of the State, had argued that Victoria House was not a designated place to hold rallies. Counsel suggested that the event could be held 150-170m away from Victoria House at designated areas and argued that only one event would take place at Victoria House, on 21st July each year, being a day of commemoration for members of the Youth Congress who had been killed there back in 1993.
It was further submitted that the petitioners had not made their application within the requisite time frame as laid own in the State's advisories and hence the Kolkata Police website had generated auto-rejection emails for the same.
In taking exception to these submissions, the bench orally remarked:
The advisory allows for discretion. It says 2-3 weeks. You are unnecessarily doing it. We’ll do one thing, we’ll ban all programs. No rallies, no blockage of roads, everyone is treated equally. You are unnecessarily precipitating a problem. They applied 23 days in advance. How many organisations affiliated to the ruling disposition have done this [taken permission]? If it is revealed it will amount to airing dirty laundry in public. Even on Chhat Puja roads were blocked, even at 3 am today people sitting on top of trucks and beating drums. We can’t do anything unless you ban everything…you are unnecessarily popularising the program…this 10 thousand will become 1 lakh. Till the Ram Navami celebrations [violence] there was nothing in place.
While the State attempted to suggest alternative arenas and argue on the legal aspects of the matter, the Bench firmly observed that if such arguments continued, then affidavits would have to be called for, and while the State may be heard in full, the same may lead to a complete ban of rallies in the State.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the writ petition itself was disposed of with the rally being allowed to be held as originally proposed.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 333
Case: Jagannath Chattopadhyay V The State of West Bengal and others
Case No: WPA 26206 of 2023