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In the petition filed by EC Agrawala, the BJP states that its fundamental right to hold a peaceful yatra cannot be withheld on the ground of mere surmises and conjectures. The order of the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court is thus in violation of the petitioner party’s fundamental right under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution, it is contended.
It is stated that the rationale behind conducting the proposed Ganatantra Bachao Yatras is to create awareness amongst citizens about their voting choice and to make them more informed as citizens.
The petition, drawn by Swarupama Chaturvedi, also alludes to a political vendetta being carried out against the BJP by the ruling All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) Party since 2014.
“…the State of West Bengal is repeatedly attacking upon fundamental rights of citizens…
…the rise of BJP and dissatisfaction of people against the present State Government can be seen from the recent elections in West Bengal…All India Trinamool Congress is trying to snatch voting rights of the people by threatening them…which could be seen by the fact that 34% of seats in Panchayat Elections went uncontested.”
Earlier instances where the BJP has been prevented from holdings similar rallies and events in the state have also been referred to. Specific reference has been made to a rally conducted earlier this year by the youth wing of the BJP in the state. In that case, the Calcutta High Court had granted permission for the conduct of bike rallies across the state, subject to certain conditions. The AITC had challenged the same unsuccessfully, and the rallies went on peacefully, the petition states.
It is stated that the ruling party is trying to give the Rath Yatras a communal colour, which has no basis.
Further, it has been argued that officials of the state government “willfully and intentionally” did not respond to letters sent by the BJP seeking permission to conduct the Yatras. The actions of the government are thus illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional, the petition states.
“…since petitioner has emerged as the main opposition party in the State of West Bengal, therefore, the present government has been trying to stop BJP while using such tactics…”
Reference is also made to Supreme Court decisions where it has been held that peaceful assemblies cannot be stifled, unless in exceptional circumstances.
The BJP states that in view of the state government’s inaction, it is losing valuable time, and that the Yatras require to be completed in a time-bound manner owing to upcoming festivals. The party has assured the Court that the Yatras will not cause any public disturbance, and that it is willing to comply with practical terms and conditions while conducting the same.
Thus, it has been prayed that the order of the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court be stayed.
On December 20, Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty of the High Court had allowed the BJP’s plea to hold the Yatras, setting aside the decision of a state government panel against the same. While allowing the plea, the Court had directed that the state should ensure that law and order is maintained during the programme.
After the state filed an urgent appeal, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Debasish Kargupta and Justice Shampa Sarkar overturned the single judge decision.
The Division Bench found that the single judge’s order allowing the rallies did not take into account over thirty intelligence reports indicating that the same was likely to affect the communal peace.
The matter was thus remanded back to the Single Judge with a direction that it be reconsidered after taking into account the intelligence reports.