New Delhi: The ruling BJP cannot hold a “Rath Yatra” in Bengal for now, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, stating that the concerns of the state government “cannot be said to be unfounded”. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the BJP to revise its plan, address the apprehensions of the Mamata Banerjee government and seek permission again.
The top court, however, said the Bengal unit of the BJP can hold rallies and meetings in the state. The Bengal government had said in court that the “Rath Yatra’s” route is planned through communally sensitive areas and will create law and order problems. The state government had also cited intelligence reports to say the rallies would be communally polarising.
To which, the BJP had argued that “It is our right to hold rallies and yatra in a democracy and state can’t stop our constitutional rights”. The top court has asked the Bengal government to consider the revised schedule of the BJP for ”Rath Yatra” keeping in mind the fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition by the Bengal unit of the BJP that had challenged the December 21 order of the division bench of the Calcutta High Court, which had set aside the order of a single-judge bench allowing the procession.
The BJP had planned to launch the “rath yatra” from three districts of the state. The rallies, according to the original schedule, were supposed to be flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah from West 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.
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.