The Calcutta High Court on Thursday set aside a West Bengal government denying permission to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to carry out "rath yatras" across the state. The court granted the BJP a permission to carry out three yatras across the state. Hearing a plea filed by the BJP, the court directed the administration to ensure that there is no breach of law and order. The High Court decision has come as a blow to the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government, that had denied permission for the “rath yatras”. The state government had told the court that the permission was denied following intelligence inputs expressing fear of a breach of communal harmony.
Reacting to the High Court judgment in favour of the BJP, Union Minister Arun Jaitley congratulated the party and questioned the silence of rights organisations and Opposition parties on denial of a right to organise a political programme in the state.
"Why are Human Rights activists and opposition parties silent on denial of a right to a political party to organise its' programme in West Bengal.If any NDA/BJP Government had stopped an opposition Programme, it would have been called an “Undeclared Emergency”. Why Silence now?" Jaitley wrote on Twitter.
Appearing for the state government, Advocate General Kishore Dutta had Wednesday submitted an intelligence report in a sealed cover and said the issues stated in the BJP's brochure publicising the "rath yatra" were communally sensitive in nature. In the defence, BJP counsel SK Kapoor cited Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi March during the British rule to make a case for the yatra.
"In the worst days of the British period, Mahatma Gandhi held the Dandi march. But now the West Bengal government says it won't allow a political procession," Kapoor argued. He further added that the West Bengal government was denying a political party from organising procession – a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the country.
On December 6, a single-judge bench of the High Court has refused set aside the state government order to allow the BJP to carry out the procession. However, the saffron party then moved the division bench, which asked the West Bengal chief secretary, the home secretary, and the state police chief to take a decision after meeting BJP representatives.
After the discussions, the state government again denied the permission, a move that irked the BJP chief Amit Shah, who openly challenged that "nobody can stop rath yatras in the state". He said that the permission was not granted because CM Banerjee was "terrified" that the BJP would expand its base in the state.