Friday, Oct 17, 2003
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By Our Staff Reporter
The Bench comprising the Chief Justice, J.L. Gupta, Justice J. B. Koshy and Justice A.K. Basheer came down heavily on the Government when a batch of writ petitions seeking to declare unconstitutional the holding of hartals came up before it. The court pointed out that nothing had been pointed out even from the record or from the affidavit to show that any action was taken by the police against the hartal organisers.
The court had earlier directed the Director General of Police, District Collector and other officers to take immediate and prompt action to recover compensation for damage caused to general public and State properties during hartals.
"Did the Government take any action against any one? Were any damages recovered? No material has been placed on record,'' the court said.
The counsel for the petitioners pointed out that various offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code had been perpetrated during hartals.
"Were any case registered? Whether any prosecution had been launched? What was the outcome?" the court asked. Nothing had been pointed out, the judges said.
The counsel pointed out that despite the specific directive by the Bench, the State Government and others had failed to take any measures to prevent hartals, avoid loss of property and to award compensation to the aggrieved persons.
The counsel for the Government then sought two weeks' time to enable him to collect the data and place the information before the court. The court then adjourned the cases to November 6.
In the affidavit filed in the case, the Government took the stand that it had never supported any hartal or bandh. The hartal call might sometimes turn violent, creating law and order problems. With a view to avoid inconvenience to the public, the Government might declare holidays at times or postpone examinations. The Government had been trying its best to prevent all kinds of violence and use of force during hartals. In fact, instructions had been issued by the DGP to all senior police officers to comply with the directives of the High Court on holding of processions and demonstrations. Effective police pickets and patrolling were being arranged whenever any organisation called for hartal.
The Bench also admitted a writ petition filed by T.V. Ajith Kumar, Councillor, Medical College area, Thiruvananthapuram, seeking to ban demonstrations and satyagrahas in front of the Secretariat.
In an affidavit filed in response to earlier writ petitions seeking similar relief, the Government pointed out that some proposals to allow staging of demonstrations and satyagrahas away from the Secretariat had been made before the Government.
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