Supreme Court issues notice to Centre, States
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and States on a public interest litigation petition for a direction to implement the guidelines framed by it in a case relating to ‘Destruction of Public and Private Properties’ during dharnas and hartals called by political parties or organisations. The notice is returnable in four weeks.
A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J.S. Khehar was hearing the plea filed by advocate Koshy Jacob, who submitted that neither the States nor the Central government had taken any action to put in place a legislation, or fast track mechanism consistent with the guidelines.
Senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for the petitioner, told the Bench that in Kerala, there had been 363 hartals and bandhs resulting in mass destruction of public properties which came to light through the Right to Information route.
Though similar information was sought from other States, they did not furnish any.
It has been more than three years since the court came out with the guidelines.
The petitioner said many political parties and other organisations organised bandhs/hartals and other protests which resulted in large scale destruction of public and private properties. He said the Supreme Court in 2009 had directed the Centre to amend the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and framed guidelines for recovery of cost from the bandh organisers.
However, no action has been taken, which “ultimately results in violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.”
The petitioner said: “There were 363 hartals called by the political parties in the last seven years in Kerala and the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court were deliberately and wilfully neglected by the concerned parties. If the bandh/hartal is declared by the political party which is in power, the State government and its machineries remained mute spectators. Bandh/hartals become a tool in the hands of the political parties to forcefully shut down shops, offices, businesses and other normal activities of the general public. Though earlier, people used to voluntarily participate in bandhs and general strikes, later the political parties started to enforce bandhs using their money and muscle power.
“This court has categorically laid down that bandh/hartal is unconstitutional and the State has the obligation to protect the citizen against it. However, political parties and other organisations continued to declare bandhs and general strikes disregarding the Supreme Court’s judgments and destroying private and public property in large scale.Hence the writ petition for a direction to the respondents to implement the guidelines.”