The West Bengal government on Wednesday told the Calcutta High Court that intelligence reports expressing apprehensions of breach of communal harmony were the reason for denial of permission to BJP's 'rath yatra' rallies in the state.
Countering the state government's stand, BJP counsel S K Kapoor alleged that the denial of permission was pre-determined and without any basis, adding that "in the worst days of the British period Mahatma Gandhi held the Dandi March and nobody stopped him" but "now the government here says it won't allow a political procession".
The matter will be taken up for hearing again Thursday when Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty said he will pass an order on the petition moved by the BJP challenging the state government's denial of permission to its rally.
Kapoor told the court that the state government has not put forward any objective data to bolster its claim and was trying to forcibly stop a political party from holding processions, which is a Constitution-guaranteed right.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted a sealed report to the court and said that the stated issues in BJP's brochure publicising the yatra are communally sensitive in nature.
He submitted that the court has a limited scope of judicial review in an administrative decision to not allow the yatra on the basis of intelligence inputs and apprehensions of communal tension.
He also stated that 2,100 permissions were granted for different political rallies and meetings in West Bengal from 2017, but in this case, the 'rath yatra' was not allowed owing to the apprehensions.
Appearing for the state police, counsel Anand Grover submitted that the BJP has stated that the programme was of huge proportion with three 'rath yatras' beginning from three parts of the state and covering all districts spanning 34 days when a total 154 public meetings would be held. This would require the huge deployment of security personnel.
He said that if the BJP wishes to hold meetings in a few districts, it can be allowed, but rallies of such a huge proportion cannot be given approval owing to logistical reasons and apprehensions that these rallies may turn into communal propaganda, as expressed in the intelligence reports.
Kapoor said his party wants to hold the rallies to generate public opinion that may go against the ruling party in the state and it is the duty of the police to control and maintain law and order.
Alleging that the denial of permission was pre-determined and without any basis, Kapoor claimed that this was a return to the police state.
The BJP counsel said that the police cannot on its own deny permission to hold a rally and has to move the court of a magistrate to obtain a prohibitory order on giving reasons for seeking such an order.
On December 6, a single-judge bench of the HC had refused to give permission to the BJP to hold the yatra, which was scheduled to be flagged off by BJP national president Amit Shah from Cooch Behar in North Bengal on December 7, was following which the party had approached the division bench.
The division bench on December 7 asked the West Bengal chief secretary, the home secretary and the director general of police to hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP and take a decision on the 'yatra' by December 14.
The state government after parleys with the three-member team had refused permission for the rath yatra on December 15 on the grounds that it might lead to communal tension.
(With inputs from agencies.)