The Supreme Court on January 15, 2019, declined to grant permission to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to hold its proposed Rath Yatra in West Bengal.
However, the top court has asked the Party to submit a modified proposal to satisfy the state government’s apprehensions on law and order issues.
The order was passed by a Bench of Chief Justice of IndiaRanjan Gogoi and JusticesL Nageswara Rao and Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
While the court has put restrictions on holding the Rath Yatra in the State, it has directed the state government to permit all public meetings and rallies.
Senior AdvocateMukul Rohatgi, appearing for BJP, submitted before the court that the case involves a Constitutional question and the State was infringing upon the petitioner’s fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a).
Senior AdvocateAbhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the State of West Bengal, submitted that the state has no objection in giving permission for public meetings organised by the petitioner. However, the issue was with respect to moving yatra which is likely to pass through communally sensitive areas.
Taking into consideration the submissions made by both the parties, the court said that “So far as the Rath Yatras are concerned, there appears to be some objections of the State Government. Shorn of details, the Rath Yatras contemplate simultaneous processions from four different parts of the State, covering all the 42 Parliamentary Constituencies in a total period of 20 days. A minimum number of 2000 people is expected to join each of the Rath Yatras proposed. The Rath Yatras naturally would cover the entire length and breadth of the State and would pass through different areas inhabited by different communities. The extent to which the Rath Yatras have been planned, the details of which have been submitted to the Government, has led to certain apprehensions in the mind of the Government as to the possible effect of the Rath Yatras on the law and order situation in the State.
Looking into the details of the proposed Rath Yatras and the order of the State Government issued on January 14, 2019, the court said that “we cannot say that the apprehensions expressed by the State Government are totally unfounded. It is for the State Government to maintain law and order in the State and the apprehensions expressed in the order will have to be addressed to by the petitioner to the Government in a reasonable manner.”
Hence, the court asked the BJP to submit a modified proposal to satisfy the state government’s apprehensions on law and order issues. Upon submission of the proposal, the government will consider the matter and pass appropriate order keeping in mind that the case involves exercise of fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a).
“Insofar as the Rath Yatras are concerned, it will be open for the petitioner to submit a further modified proposal, which meets and answers the apprehensions of the State Government, so far as maintenance of law and order is concerned. Once such a proposal is submitted, the State Government will consider the matter and pass appropriate orders keeping in mind that the present involves a case of exercise of the fundamental rights, inter alia, under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. It is in that spirit that we expect the State Government to deal with the matter on receipt of such revised proposal as may be submitted,” the court said.
Further, on the point of holding public meetings and rallies in the State, the court directed the State Government to permit all public meetings and rallies that are proposed to be held by the petitioner at different venues. Provided adequate and timely information and schedules of such meetings, rallies etc. are furnished by the petitioner.
By this order, the court has effectively upheld the order of a Division Bench of Calcutta High Court which had upheld the State government’s decision to deny permission for the Rath Yatra.