The Kerala High Court, on Friday, strongly condemned and initiated suo motu proceedings against the leaders of Popular Front of India (PFI), noting the illegal call for flash hartal in the State, which was earlier banned by the Court.
The PFI called for dawn-to-dusk hartal in the State today following the the arrest of its leaders by the NIA yesterady.
Division bench consisting of Justice A. K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P. observed that stringent action must be taken against the violators of the Court order.
"The action of the aforementioned persons in calling for the hartal without following the procedure contemplated in our earlier order, prima facie, amounts to contempt of the directions of this Court in the order aforementioned", the bench stated in the order while saying that it is suo motu initiating separate action for contempt.
The Court had previously, in an order dated 7.1. 2019, had issued directions to ensure that a call for hartal or general strike does not have the effect of affecting the fundamental rights of those who do not align with the cause of those calling for the hartal and had mandated 7-days prior notice for declaring hartal.
The Court had made it clear that flash hartals, namely those hartals/strikes called without adhering to the procedure of giving seven days clear public notice, would be deemed illegal/unconstitutional entailing adverse consequences to the persons/party calling for the hartal.
Condemning the calling of flash hartal by the PFI party against the arrest of its top leaders by NIA, the Court initiated Suo Motu proceedings against it.
The Court added the Popular Front of India, represented by State General Secretary and Sri.A. Abdul Sathar, State General Secretary Popular Front of India, Kerala State Committee, as respondents in the matter.
In the wake of this situation, the Court issued the following directions:
(1) The police establishment in the State shall ensure that adequate measures are put in place to prevent any damage/destruction to public/private property of Government/citizens who do not support the call for hartal. In particular, the police shall also take steps to monitor any such activity by the supporters of the illegal hartal and shall place before this Court a report giving details of such instances and the extent of damage, if any, caused to public/private property. The said details would be necessary for this Court to take remedial action to recover such losses from the perpetrators of the illegality.
(2) The police establishment shall also keep in mind the provisions of the relevant Penal Laws, including the provisions of the Kerala Prevention of Damage to Private Property and Payment of Compensation Act, 2019 as also the provisions of Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code while registering cases against those found to be flouting the law. Adequate police protection shall also be granted to all public utility services that apprehend violence, at the hands of those supporting the illegal hartal. We take of the submission of the learned Director General of Prosecution Sri.T.A.Shaji that Circulars/instructions to the above effect have already been issued by the State Police Chief last evening.
(3) We note with some concern, that in the Media reports about the flash hartal today, there is a mere mention of the call for a flash hartal, without mentioning the details of the interim order passed by this Court, which has the effect of rendering such calls for hartal without seven days public notice, as illegal. We, therefore, deem it necessary to once again request the Media to ensure that whenever such illegal flash hartals are called for, and it is apparent that the said hartal called is in violation of the orders passed by this Court, the public be duly informed of the said fact. This, in our view, would suffice to a large extent, in allaying the apprehensions of the general public as regards the legality of the call for hartal and also dissuade providers of public utility services from heeding to such calls for illegal hartals in future.
The matter has been posted for 29.09.2022 for the report of the State Government.
Case title: Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry v. State of Kerala and Malayalavedi v. State of Kerala