KOLKATA: In a major embarrassment for Mamata Banerjee, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday revoked a controversial order of her government that barred any immersion of Durga Puja idols on the day of Muharram.
Nullifying the state government order, a division bench of the High Court -- comprising acting chief justice Rakesh Tiwari and justice Harish Tandon -- allowed Durga Puja immersions to continue into October 1, the day of Muharram tazia processions.
Mamata Banerjee's reaction to the court order was strong: "Someone can slit my throat but no one can tell me what to do to ensure peace in the state."
The West Bengal chief minister had issued an order on August 24 stating that if not completed by 10 pm on September 30 (Dashami), Durga idol immersion would be held up on October 1 (Ekadashi) to make way for the Muharram processions. The immersion could resume on October 2.
However, the High Court struck down the order and asked the state to demarcate separate routes for the immersion and tazia processions and ensure that they didn't intersect.
The judges advised the state government to learn religious procession management from the Mumbai police, who manage the Ganesh idol immersion and Muharram processions when they fall on the same day.
The court rebuked the state government for using 'extreme power' to curb citizen's rights. "You are exercising extreme power without any basis. Just because you are the state, can you pass arbitrary orders?" the bench asked.
Giving an example, the court said that in case of a congregation turning restive, the police first tries to persuade, then uses water cannon, a mild lathi-charge and so on if one measure fails after another. But the police cannot resort to firing at the outset, it said.
"You have to go step by step. Here what you have done is that you have taken the last resort first," justice Tiwari said.
Sources said Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with top officials at the state secretariat Nabanna after the court order and directed her staff to comply with the court order.
However, she attacked the central government. "The Centre is hatching a conspiracy against us. It takes only one second to ignite a fire but it takes a lot of effort to douse it. I never appeased anyone. Allegations of appeasement against me are deeply insulting and disrespectful. Today, I am saying this with a heavy heart," she said.