SC declines BJP’s plea on Bengal rath yatra as its supporters clash with Mamata’s police
There will be no urgent hearing. Meanwhile, in West Bengal’s Basirhat, police lathicharge BJP workers
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to accord an urgent hearing on the BJP's plea against the Calcutta High Court order not allowing its Rath Yatra in West Bengal. An official of the apex court registry and the BJP's lawyer said that the petition would be heard in a normal course. On Monday itself, several BJP workers and police personnel were injured after a "law-violation programme" of the party turned violent in Basirhat town of West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district in the presence of BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh.
According to the police, they had initially tried to pacify the BJP supporters, but resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd after the party workers threw stones at the force. Several BJP workers and police officials were injured in the clash in Basirhat, about 60 km east of Kolkata.
The BJP’s West Bengal unit had sought permission to hold the campaign ‘Save Democracy Rally’, which would have covered 42 parliamentary constituencies in the state ahead of the 2019 general elections. As an interim relief, it also sought an ex-parte stay on the operation of the December 21 order of the Calcutta High Court.
It had challenged in front of the Supreme Court the December 21 order of a division bench of the high court which had set aside the order of a single judge allowing the yatra. In the plea filed through advocate EC Agrawala, the BJP said their fundamental right to hold a peaceful yatra cannot be withheld.
The high court's division bench had last Friday send the case back to the single judge to hear it afresh and also to consider 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 Thursday order of the single judge.
The rallies, according to the original schedule, were supposed to be flagged off by BJP President Amit Shah from Bengal's 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 apex 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 plea arrayed as parties the State of West Bengal, its Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary, Director General of Police and Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order).
It said that the party's fundamental right to hold a peaceful yatra cannot be withheld on the ground of mere surmises and conjectures as done by the state authorities repeatedly.
The plea alleged that the state government was repeatedly "attacking" the fundamental right of citizens due to which different petitions were filed challenging the activities of the state government in denying permission to different organisations and the top court has allowed the citizens to organise their events.
It claimed that earlier also, 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".
"The activity proposed to be organised by the petitioner (BJP WB unit) is to create awareness among citizens about their choice and make them more informed as citizen and therefore, any unreasonable assumption cannot be allowed on pretext of reasonable restriction," the plea said.
It claimed that the high court has failed to appreciate that the order of the authorities is not justified in the eyes of the law as it is in contravention of the provisions of law and total ignorance of the principles established by the apex court in many judgements.
"The high court must have appreciated the fact that the respondents are misusing the procedure of law to prohibit petitioners to exercise their constitutional rights on some of other pretext," the petition read.
The plea said that the BJP has emerged as the main opposition party in West Bengal and its rise and dissatisfaction of people against the present state government can be seen from recent elections there.
"The state of West Bengal, the All India Trinamool Congress is trying to snatch voting rights of the people by threatening them and demolishing the democratic right of the people, which could be seen by the fact that 34 per cent of seats in Panchayat elections went uncontested," it said.
The petition said the BJP has decided to protest against lawlessness like fear to contest the election and post poll violence, which are very much prevalent in the state. It said the party is losing valuable time in starting with the yatra which is required to be completed in a time-bound manner in view of certain upcoming festivals.
The plea added that they have given information and representations to police and other authorities but they did not bother to respond.
"It is apparent that the State of West Bengal is showing political vendetta and wilfully trying to stop the petitioner to exercise its fundamental rights in the State of West Bengal... police has every right to regulate that but the law does not give power to police authorities to restrain citizens to hold any peaceful rally," it said, adding that the BJP has given its route map to the police as national level leaders, several MPs and CMs have agreed to join the yatra.
It alleged that every time the BJP is facing same "vindictive" attitude of the state government and that there is a basic difference between a political party and government.
About the clash in Basirhat, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh claimed that the stones were thrown by "outsiders" who had nothing to do with the party. "We were conducting our 'law-violation programme' peacefully, but the police started unprovoked lathi-charge. Those who have pelted stones are outsiders, they have nothing to do with the BJP."
However, eyewitnesses present told National Herald that the police had erected barricades to keep the protestors on one side. They lathicharged as some workers attempted to break the barricades and started getting physical with cops.
Senior TMC leader Jyotipriyo Mullick alleged that the saffron party was deliberately trying to create violence and demanded that Ghosh be arrested for instigating violence.
The BJP has been organising "law-violation programmes" in various parts of the state in protest against the Trinamool Congress government's decision to not allow its proposed rath yatras.
With agency inputs
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