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In yet another setback for the BJP, the Supreme Court has rejected the party’s plea for permission to use loudspeakers and microphones for public rallies in West Bengal. A complete ban on use of loudspeakers till March exists due to the exams in the state.

After the apex court poured cold water on the party’s plans for rath yatra by laying strict conditions, the BJP opened the new front against the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government by moving a fresh petition in the Supreme Court over ban on the use of loudspeakers in residential areas and educational institutions. The BJP has termed it as an attempt to muzzle its voice. Challenging the validity of a February 2013 order issued by the Mamata government banning loudspeakers in residential areas or near educational institutions, the BJP has said it violates the party’s right to garner public support and is an infringement on the right to free speech.

This issue arises as in fresh petition that comes close on the heels of Bengal government disallowing the party’s Rath Yatra. After the SC directive the government only permitted political meetings and rallies but according to the BJP, such notification banning loudspeakers comes with the intent that the BJP doesn’t hold any rallies or meetings before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections this year.

The BJP petition says the state government passed the order with an ulterior motive and goes on to say that it has been designed to create an impediment in the activity of BJP, a political party which has a significant presence in the state for building up public support for the ensuing election.

BJP also says that checking noise pollution especially at the time when exams are to be held in the state appears to be within legitimate purpose however a blanket ban on the use of microphones near residential areas or educational institutions virtually results in a complete ban. The BJP is engaged in a bitter fight against the TMC in the state since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the saffron party’s vote share increased nearly three times.

—India Legal Bureau

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