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Kolkata Book Fair banned PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 January 2008

Agency

Less than 24 hours before its inauguration, Calcutta High Court has banned the 33rd Kolkata Book Fair from being held on the Park Circus maidan on environmental grounds.

The fair was to be held from January 29 to February 10, reports The Times of India.

The verdict forced the Publishers and Booksellers Guild to do a rethink on the issue and came as a major embarrassment to Kolkata Municipal Corporation, which had taken the initiative to allow the fair to be held at the Park Circus maidan.

It was also a blow to the state government, which gave tacit support to the entire effort. The organisers are in disarray at the turn of events. 'There is a difference of opinion in the guild's book fair committee about where to hold the fair.

At this moment, we aren't looking for any alternative venue. Where's the guarantee the new venue won't bring in another PIL? We leave it to the city people to decide,' said guild secretary Tridib Chattopadhyay. The loss of face apart, the publishers, decorators and the guild could lose crores if the fair is not held. The guild may have to apply for fresh dates from the international body of book fair organisers.

The chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, an avid book-lover, said the verdict was 'unfortunate'. The guild and KMC, which granted permission, were pulled up by the green Bench of Chief Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh.

The guild has been asked to restore the ground to its original form and hand it over to KMC at the earliest. Setting aside the permissions granted by Kolkata Police and the fire services, the court observed that apart from posing a threat to the environment, holding the fair at the Park Circus maidan would violate Article 14 (equality in the eye of the law) and Article 21 (right to life that includes right to live in a pollution-free environment).

The Bench held that holding the fair would violate laws relating to air pollution, noise pollution and other environmental laws. Pulling up KMC for granting permission to the organisers, it said the civic body did not consider the pollution aspect before giving its go-ahead.

The verdict drew a sharp reaction from mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who said it went against the wishes of the majority. 'Some people might benefit from this order, but it is a tremendous blow to the city's image.

If there were any technical errors on KMC's part, then the fair could have been deferred instead of being banned. If pollution is the determining factor, then the high court should also be closed down, considering the high level of vehicular pollution in the court's vicinity,' Bhattacharya said.

The court verdict is a culmination of a long-drawn battle between the environmentalists and the state on holding fairs at the Maidan, close to Victoria Memorial.

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