Calcutta HC gives conditional nod to BJP’s rath yatra, Bengal govt may move division bench

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday gave conditional permission to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rath Yatra rallies, saying the organisers will be liable for any untoward incident or damage to public property.

The Bengal government may, however, move the division bench on Friday challenging the court order.

The state government had last week rejected BJP’s plea to hold the ‘Rath Yatra’, touted as the ‘save democracy rally’, saying there was “grave apprehension of major breach of peace and communal violence during and in the aftermath” of the programme.

The BJP had moved a single bench of the Calcutta High Court on December 17 after the Bengal government’s decision and proposed December 22, 24 and 26 as fresh dates for the three Rath Yatra rallies.

Acting on a fresh plea filed by the saffron party, Justice Tapobrata Chakraborty allowed the rallies to be taken out, but said the organisers have to inform the police superintendent of the district concerned 12 hours before taking out the yatra.

He said the organisers would be liable for any untoward incident or damage to public property during the rallies and directed the state police to deploy adequate force to ensure there is no breach of law and order.

The court has also asked the organisers to make sure that rallies do not affect the vehicular traffic on the state highways and arterial roads.

BJP welcomed the court verdict and said it will conduct the rallies following all administrative regulations.

“The administrative order passed by the Mamata Banerjee government to disallow the Rath Yatra, has been dubbed as unconstitutional by the court. We welcome the verdict. The BJP will conduct the proposed programme by following all the administrative regulations,” said Bhupender Yadav, party’s national general secretary.

“We believe that BJP will help make the democratic foundations stronger in Bengal and a large number of people will fearlessly vote in favour of BJP in the coming elections,” he said.

The state BJP leadership termed Wednesday’s verdict as a victory of democracy and said they would hold discussion with the party’s senior leadership in Delhi before officially announcing the dates.

“We welcome the verdict. It is a victory of democracy and the democracy-loving people of the state. We will follow the court’s directives to conduct the rallies. The court has not mentioned any dates in its verdict. As of now our dates are as announced earlier. But we will discuss the matter and take the final call,” said state BJP leader Jay Prakash Majumder after the verdict.

“We ask the Trinamool Congress activists not to impede us from conveying our message to the common people. Let the people decide whether they would accept us or not. That is how a democracy should function. So Trinamool should not create any obstruction in our programmes,” he added.

State BJP President Dilip Ghosh said the party will hold the Rath Yatra in a peaceful manner and there would be no violence or provocation.

“We have always maintained that the rallies will take place as per schedule. There will no violence or breach of law from our side. If someone attacks us on the streets it is the responsibility of the administration to ensure our safety. If the state administration fails to do so, we have the capacity to arrange for our own protection,” Ghosh said.

“There can be minor changes in the programme as the dates may collide with certain festivals like Christmas. We will make adjustments accordingly so that people do not face any problems,” he added.

The BJP was originally scheduled to hold three Rath Yatra rallies from north Bengal’s Cooch Behar, South 24 Parganas district’s Gangasagar and Birbhum district’s temple town of Tarapith, flagged off by party president Amit Shah on 7, 9 and 14 respectively. These rallies were meant to touch all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state before converging at Kolkata in January.