Supreme Court Seeks Bengal’s Response On BJP’s Rath Yatra

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The bench posted the matter for hearing on January 15. (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the West Bengal government on a petition by the BJP seeking permission to take out rath yatra in the state.

The party's West Bengal unit has challenged the December 21 order of a division bench of the Calcutta High Court, which had set aside the order of a single-judge bench allowing the procession.

A bench comprising justices L Nageswara Rao and S K Kaul also asked the BJP state unit to submit a revised plan for its ''save democracy rally'' for consideration by the state government.

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The bench posted the matter for hearing on January 15.

"In the meanwhile, the petitioner (BJP) will submit a revised schedule of the Rath Yatra/Ganatantra Bachao Yatra/Chetna Yatra to the respondent– State Government, during the course of the day. The State Government shall consider the same," the order said.

The BJP has now decided to cut short its 40-day programme to 20 and the fresh yatras would start from Bahrampur, Diamond Harbour, Midnapore and Kolkata North Lok Sabha constituencies, a lawyer associated with the matter said, adding that the decision was taken in view of the upcoming school examinations and the 2019 general elections.

Earlier, the BJP's West Bengal unit approached the top court seeking permission to take out the rally, which would cover 42 parliamentary constituencies in the state ahead of general elections to be held this year. In its plea, the BJP has said that their fundamental right to hold a peaceful yatra cannot be withheld.

The high court's division bench had sent the case back to a single-judge bench to hear it afresh and also to consider the intelligence inputs by state agencies.

The order of the division bench had come after hearing an appeal moved by the West Bengal government challenging the order of the single-judge bench.

The rallies, according to the original schedule, were supposed to be flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah from Bengal's Cooch Behar district on December 7, Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas on December 9, and from Tarapith temple in Birbhum on December 14.

In the plea filed in the top court, the BJP's West Bengal unit contended that authorities cannot abridge their right and they have a duty to facilitate them in exercising their democratic right.

The BJP alleged in the plea that the state government was repeatedly "attacking" the fundamental right of citizens due to which different petitions have been filed challenging the activities of the state government in denying permission to different organisations.

It has claimed that earlier too, permission was denied several times at the last moment to "harass the BJP" which later moved the high court and that the party "is facing such political vendetta since 2014 in West Bengal".

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