A bruised state government was weighing the option of a last-ditch appeal in a higher court.
But the BJP is savouring the political gift handed by the Mamata government by trying to block the meeting at every step of the way and transforming the event into a cause celebre. BJP national president Amit Shah is the main draw at the Sunday meeting.
The court asked the civic body and fire services that had refused permission to go to the site tomorrow and ensure the dais was built to their specifications.
“I’m ready to dismiss the case,” Justice Debangshu Basak told the protesting government, “but then you have to give an undertaking that no rally would be allowed at the spot in the future.”
Caught by surprise, the government lawyers chose silence as the venue hosts the most important political event on Trinamul’s annual roster, its July 21 martyrs’ day rally.
State BJP president Rahul Sinha asserted vindication of the claim that his party alone was capable of challenging Trinamul’s hegemony in Bengal.
“Trinamul had also denied permission to the CPM (North 24-Parganas unit) to hold its rally at Esplanade but unlike them, we have fought the case tooth and nail,” Sinha said.
After repeated police refusals to accept its application, the BJP had moved the high court and secured a meeting with the police commissioner, only to be denied permission.
The court then gave conditional clearance for the rally, provided the civic body and fire department granted permission. Yesterday, both authorities rejected the application, citing lack of clarity on the position and dimensions of the dais, among other things.
“The joint commissioner (development) of Calcutta Municipal Corporation and a representative of the director-general of West Bengal Fire Services will reach the spot at 10.30am tomorrow,” today’s court order said.
It added that two BJP leaders would apprise the two officials about the dais to be built. “After receiving the nod from the two officials, the dais will be constructed. The commissioner of police can send two officers who will assist the officials,” the order said.
State law minister Chandrima Bhattacharya was non-committal about an appeal, saying the court order was still unavailable on the high court website.
“Before going through the order, I can’t say whether the state would like to challenge it before a division bench,” she said.
Government sources said they were exploring options. Although courts are closed on weekends, key hearings can be held at judges’ residences.
The BJP used the court decision to launch a fresh offensive on the state government.
“It is a rap for Mamata Banerjee’s anarchistic style of governance. They had created multiple layers to stop the rally despite the BJP seeking permission since July 22,” said the party national secretary in charge of Bengal affairs, Sidharth Nath Singh.
BJP counsel S.K. Kapoor and Kaushik Chanda had moved a fresh petition before Justice Basak today, informing him of the denial letters from the civic authorities and the fire services.
“Both have claimed the sketch submitted by the BJP does not agree with the norms. We are ready to build our dais according to their guidelines. Please allow us to hold the meeting near Victoria House,” Kapoor said.
The judge told them to serve notices on the civic body and the fire services asking them to be in court at 2pm.
Appearing for the state, additional advocate-general Ashok Banerjee said the judge lacked the jurisdiction to hear a case relating to a civic body decision.
Justice Basak replied that the civic authorities had taken the decision “on the basis of an earlier order of this court, so this court certainly has the jurisdiction”.
Fire services counsel Pranab Dutta and civic body lawyer Biswanath Mukherjee later argued that there was no time left to reconsider a fresh BJP application.
“So far as my knowledge goes,” the judge said, “neither of you did anything after receiving the applications, which prompted the petitioner to move my court again.”