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CALCUTTA High Court on Wednesday quashed the prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC at Singur, making it possible for all and sundry to visit the place freely. It is a collosal snubbing of the state administrative machinery and a huge setback for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government.

Following a writ petition filed by Ganesh Chakraborty and two others members of the Krishijami Bachao Committee, Justice Dipankar Datta observed : “The prohibitory order amounts to abuse of power.” The two co-petitioners, Gopal Das and Mohit Kolay, had sacrificed land at Singur to the West Bengal government, during its farmland acquisition drive.
The judge quashed the prohibitory order on the technical ground that Section 144 cannot be imposed at the district level for more than seven days at a stretch and that there was no adequate reason for the administration to continue stretching the prohibition at Singur.

Justice Datta held that the order was pre-determined and there was “no ingredient for invoking Section 144”. Besides, “the rights of the petitioners guaranteed under article 19 of the Constitution have also been infringed upon”, the judge said.

The state administration, under instructions from the chief minister and the government, had first imposed Section 144 in Singur on November 30, 2006. It was withdrawn temporarily on January 28, 2007 and re-imposed on February 4. The order would have expired on Wednesday night and during the day, state home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy had told newsmen that the government was planning to extend the same once again, anticipating trouble.
The ramifications of the order are immense. It may affect the construction work on the proposed project which was continuing mainly due to the umbrella provided by the prohibitory order that effectively restrained political disturbances and hooliganism at the site.

The verdict is also a huge setback for the state government, specially the chief minister, whose hard-nosed ways have often been criticised internally within the CPM and by Left Front colleagues, many of whom said privately that they had warned the government about the continuous use of Section 144 and about the dangers thereof. The state government and the CPM went into a state of ultra-quietness following the order. Benoy Konar, the party’s central committee member was just able to say, “If there is a further deterioration in the law & order situation at Singur as a result of the order, will the court take responsibility of it?

State home secretary said : “It is only due to a technical defect that the public interest litigation was upheld. Let us get a copy of the order first and only then can we comment on it. A number of incidents had taken place at Singur and these were not peaceful incidents. The adminitration was thus forced to issue the prohibitory orders.”

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