Ensure zero violence, Calcutta HC to Bengal govt over Prophet remark row | India News

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KOLKATA: Almost a week after violence rocked some parts of Bengal during protests against controversial comments made about Prophet Muhammad by axed BJP spokespersons, the Calcutta high court on Thursday directed the state government to make sure that no violence takes place during any such protests and gatherings. The court also directed the state government to assess the ground situation in advance and take steps to call for central forces in case protests and gatherings go out of control.
Hearing a bunch of PILs filed in the HC demanding the deployment of central forces and another petition demanding an NIA probe into the violence, a division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj sought a report from the state government on the ground situation ahead of the next hearing on June 27 and asked it to collect video footage of the gatherings and protests.
“The state authorities will take all possible preventive steps to ensure that no such incident takes place,” the HC order said.
The court directed the state to assess damage to public or private properties, if any, and award compensation to victims with the money raised from those involved in the violence.
The division bench cited the Supreme Court guidelines that a state should follow for damage assessment and identifying culprits. The SC guidelines provide for summoning of video footage or other recordings from private and public sources to pinpoint the damage and establish the nexus between those involved in the violence and the perpetrators, the HC mentioned in the order.

The bench also noted the submission by advocate general S N Mookherjee, who had referred to the provisions for punishment under the West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order (Amendment) Act, 2017. “These amended provisions provide for punishment for committing mischief in respect of property, compensation in addition to any punishment, and power of the state government to impose collective compensation,” the court observed. The Act empowers the state to collect the compensation money from those who committed the “mischief” or abetted it.
In his submission on June 13, Mookherjee had stated that police arrested and lodged FIRs against troublemakers and property vandals. In an affidavit, the state gave a detailed account of the steps taken in 10 police districts and submitted that the situation was under control.
The petitioners had pleaded with the bench to ban religious and political gatherings for the time being. In response, the CJ had observed: “Convey at least to the parties you represent that they must maintain communal harmony.”
The CJ had then turned to Mookherjee and said: “What they (petitioners) say is that they are apprehending that such things may happen in future.”
In response, Mookherjee submitted that the state would comply with the court directive and call central forces if the situation went out of control. He had, however, pointed out that the discretion to call central forces lay absolutely with the state government.

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