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Pay damages first, court tells parties

J. Venkatesan

"Political parties holding society to ransom"

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday came down on political parties for organising bandhs and holding society to ransom.

A three-judge Bench, comprising Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran, criticised them while rejecting the plea by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena to stay the operation of a Bombay High Court judgment imposing exemplary damages of Rs. 20 lakhs on each for calling a bandh in 2003.

Unless the two parties deposited the amount within a week with the Bandh Loss Compensation Fund set up by the Maharashtra Government, their petitions would not be listed. "The matter shall be listed only after the money is paid and a copy of the receipt filed before the court. If the money is not deposited the petitions shall stand dismissed," the Bench said. "In the name of a bandh, how can you take the whole society to ransom, the judges asked counsel U.R. Lalit, who appeared for the Shiv Sena. "Trains, buses don't run. Several people die." They said, "All political parties must rise above their manifestos and come out with alternatives and resort to legitimate methods."

The judges pointed out that the apex court banned bandhs as early as in 1998. "We cannot shut our eyes to this. Unless a message goes to all concerned, this cannot be put down." One of the remedies was that the damages should be so deterrent that "if someone violates the court order he must be ready to face the consequences. Resorting to a bandh is wholly impermissible."

When counsel submitted that the bandh was called in the wake of the Ghatkopar bomb blast in Mumbai, the Bench said, "Unfortunately terrorism is now a worldwide phenomenon." Referring to the London metro train blasts, the judges said: "Just see what happened in London in July. Everybody is trying to tackle this problem. If anyone is going to react to this type of terrorism, there is going to be no solution to the problem."

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