9 Aug 2023 3:41 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court has allowed a plea filed by a functionary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (“BJP”) seeking permission to hold a rally and meeting on the 9th of August (today) at the Pingbone Nabkung Ground (Math) in Paschim Medinipur, on the occasion of World Tribal Day.It also issued directions to avoid any clashes with another rally to be held on behalf of Trinamool...
The Calcutta High Court has allowed a plea filed by a functionary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (“BJP”) seeking permission to hold a rally and meeting on the 9th of August (today) at the Pingbone Nabkung Ground (Math) in Paschim Medinipur, on the occasion of World Tribal Day.
It also issued directions to avoid any clashes with another rally to be held on behalf of Trinamool Congress (“TMC”) in the nearby area.
A single-bench of Justice Jay Sengupta ordered:
Let the petitioner hold his meeting at the venue that was selected for it from 9 a.m. to 1.30 a.m. at the Pingboni Nabakung Ground. The said area shall be carefully manned by police personnel from the local police station who shall ensure that no breach of peace takes place. The petitioner shall abide by the conditions for hold such meeting. They shall name three persons responsible for compliance of all terms and conditions to hold the meeting. The meeting shall not cause any obstruction to the public at large. The sound volume stipulations should also be scrupulously maintained. After the meeting is over, the venue of the meeting shall be cleaned up by the petitioner’s men and agents. The police authorities shall make necessary arrangements to ensure that no breach of peace takes place.
It was argued by the petitioner that he had earlier sought permission to hold such a rally at the Goaltore College grounds, but that the principal of the college withdrew permission at the last minute.
It was submitted that thereafter, the petitioner chose the Pigiboni Nakabung ground, which was privately owned, and received permission from the owners for conducting a gathering of about 2,000 people. He was aggrieved by the fact that there was no response from the the police authorities on his application seeking permission to hold the rally.
The petitioner pointed out that once the present writ petition had been filed, and notice was served upon the State, he received an intimation from Goalpore Police Station, stating that the authorities had refused to grant him permission at the chosen venue, since a TMC rally was scheduled to be held in a nearby venue and due to “prevailing sensitivity in the area.”
The petitioner argued that the denial of permission by the police was a “colourable exercise of power to prevent the petitioner from holding the meeting”, and that such instances had occurred before, when the petitioner had to rely on court orders to hold meetings and rallies.
It was argued by the State that the withdrawal of permission by the principal of Goaltore College was the petitioner’s problem, and that TMC functionaries had applied for holding their function commemorating World Tribal Day at the nearby venue much before the petitioner.
It was further argued that both the venues were only 500 meters apart and considering the tensions in the area, it would not be proper to allow the petitioner to hold his meeting at the decided venue given that there would be a gathering of 5,000 people at the nearby venue.
Upon hearing submissions of both parties, the Court agreed with State's concern but also reiterated that “there should be a level playing field for all political denominations and ideologies in the State for holding public rallies, gatherings and meetings.” It held,
“Here, both the meetings pertain to commemoration of the same event – the World Tribal Day. So, choosing another date is out of question. In view of the above, let both the meetings be accommodated on the same day. For doing so the timings for the two meetings have to be altered a little. Let the petitioner hold his meeting at the venue that was selected for it from 9 a.m. to [12.30 p.m]. at the Pingboni Nabakung Ground. The other meeting sanctioned earlier by the respondents shall be held at the venue that was selected for it from 1.30 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. A gap of 1 hour for is quite fair for assembling of a group and dispersal of the other. It is an admitted position that there is distance of 500 metres between the two places. The said area shall be carefully manned by police personnel from the local police station who shall ensure that no breach of peace takes place.”
Case: Swapan Manna v The State of West Bengal & ors.
Coram: Justice Jay Sengupta
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 218
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