Calcutta High Court lays down new police permission guidelines for political programmes in Bengal

As per the fresh rules, requests for permissions for political programmes would now have to be made to the offices of the Commissioners or the Superintendents of Police depending

Role of local police stations would be limited

Fed up with the back-to-back litigations against denial of police permissions for rallies and public meetings of political parties in opposition, the Calcutta High Court on Friday laid down a new set of guidelines for providing such permissions. The guidelines would, henceforth, be binding on police forces across Bengal.

As per the fresh guidelines, requests for permissions for political programmes would now have to be made to the offices of the Commissioners or the Superintendents of Police depending on whether such programmes are being planned in urban or rural areas of the state. Earlier such permissions were sought from the local police stations.

The order was passed by the Bench of Justice Rajasekhar Mantha during the course of hearing of a petition filed jointly by the CPI-M and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) challenging the police’s refusal to grant permission for a public meeting in Bhangar in South 24 Parganas.

The court directed the police to ensure that the permissions are granted in an impartial manner, irrespective of whether the applicant is a party in power or in the Opposition.

“The offices will have to maintain a separate register for all permissions that are sought and the date and time of such applications would have to be duly noted. These applications would have to be awarded serial numbers and permissions would be considered by the police based on their merits. The police would have to enquire about the possible number of participants in the programme, the exact venue or, in case of processions, their exact route,” the judge remarked.

Calcutta  High Court (File Photo)

The court also directed that the registers would have to be put up online by the respective police offices so that they are available for public scrutiny.

The role of the local police stations would be limited to maintaining law and order in these political events, the court directed, and added that the police must prevent outsiders from creating ruckus and ensure that loudspeakers are played within the stipulated sound emission norms.

The state informed the court that it had no objections to the public meeting proposed by the litigants as long as it was held after 28 March, the last day of the ongoing higher secondary exams in the state.

Welcoming the order, Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s national vice president said: “Only a few days ago when our party state president reached the ghats of the Ganga to perform aarati, he was stopped and heckled by the police. Yet, a few days later, when Mamata Banerjee reached the place for the same programme, it magically became legal. There are countless examples of the police initially granting us permission for holding a political programme only to cancel it at the last minute after we have concluded our preparations. Only time will tell how far the police would abide by the court directions.”

The party’s spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya added: “We have moved court and have provided video footage of how the Trinamul is violating Section 144 in Bhangar. The police are acting like an extended arm of the ruling party. The court will have to oversee that the police are unable to find loopholes in the judgment and defer permissions.”

Trinamul MP Santanu Sen responded: “In Bhangar itself, the police has registered suo motu cases against the Trinamul and our party’s legal cell withdrew a programme after it was denied by police. There are many examples of how the Left and the BJP have resorted to large scale violence on the streets in the name of political programmes. The administration has and would keep doing its job in such circumstances. Mamata Banerjee has ensured that during her tenure in power all political parties enjoyed their freedom to campaign. That right wasn’t available during the Left regime here or is absent in other BJP-ruled states of the country.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.