19 Sep 2023 11:25 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court today ruled against the ‘Adibasi Kudmi Samaj’s’ decision to hold an indefinite sit-in protest on railway tracks from 20th September, in an attempt to disrupt road and rail traffic for bringing attention to their grievances of not being included in the list of scheduled tribes published by the State government. Notably, a PIL on the issue was earlier rejected by...
The Calcutta High Court today ruled against the ‘Adibasi Kudmi Samaj’s’ decision to hold an indefinite sit-in protest on railway tracks from 20th September, in an attempt to disrupt road and rail traffic for bringing attention to their grievances of not being included in the list of scheduled tribes published by the State government.
Notably, a PIL on the issue was earlier rejected by a coordinate bench of the Court, which directed the ‘Samaj’ to pursue their reliefs before the appropriate authorities. Protesters had staged two previous demonstrations in 2022, and earlier this year over the very same cause.
In allowing the present plea by the Purulia Chamber for Trade and Industry by directing for the impending strike to be called-off, a division-bench comprising Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya held:
“Earlier agitations have not addressed the grievances of the Samaj’s members. Therefore can they once more resort to such an avenue, that too for an indefinite period? Petitioners are not opposing any peaceful demonstration, but are concerned about large-scale impact that the agitation would have. The Apex Court and the Gauhati High Court have held that Road and rail blockades are variants of bandh…therefore they are also illegal and impermissible. The protest to be held from 20th September is illegal and unconstitutional. The members of the samaj have no vested right in blocking the roadways and railways causing inconvenience to several citizens, not only in WB but also three neighbouring states. They cannot be permitted to hold the innocent citizens at ransom by calling for indefinite protest.”
In disallowing the protest, the Bench relied on the Supreme Court’s decisions in CPI (M) v Bharat Kumar (1997) and Shaheen Bagh (In Re) v State (2020), as well as a Gauhati HC judgement delivered by Justice Ujjwal Bhuyan in re: Lower Assam Inter, District Carriage Bus Owners Association (2019) to differentiate between a strike, peaceful protest and a ‘bandh.’
Upon passing orders halting the protests, the Bench elaborated on the ways in which the present situation wherein protesters were gearing up for their demonstration to be held tomorrow, could be monitored. It ordered:
“State should ensure that roads and railways are not blocked. It is concerning that 39 trains had to be cancelled. Imagine the plight of people who had booked journeys in those trains, some who may have had emergency situations. We direct State to deploy additional and specialised forces. If necessary from neighbouring states, to prevent influx of protesters in core area for protest.”
In addition to the above directions, the Court also ordered for the protestors who were scheduled to demonstrate by disrupting road and rail traffic to be sensitised. It observed:
“Protesters have to be sensitised regarding the forum before which they have to agitate their grievances. This Court had declined an earlier PIL, and redirected them to an appropriate forum. This should be made known by PA system or social media to those who join the protest, many of whom may not be aware about the implications and consequences of the protest. Dialigue can commence with leaders of the samaj who can be told about the immense hardship faced by the public in addition to losses to the state exchequer due to such protests,”
Case: Purulia Chamber Of Trade And Industry Vs State Of West Bengal And Ors.
Case No: WPA(P)/503/2023