A division bench of the Sikkim High Court, in an interim order, barred the state's opposition party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), from going ahead with its proposed bandh on Thursday (February 28). The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition against the proposed bandh that argued that it would have a debilitating effect on students as well as cause disturbances to public order. The court also barred the ruling party, Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), from conducting a peaceful rally on the same day.
The petitioners, represented by Senior Advocate N Rai, argued that a large number of students, who travel from distant areas like Singtam and Rangpo, would be unduly affected. They further argued that the bandh would hinder any students preparing for their 10th and 12th standard board exams. The petitioners also pointed out that there have been multiple cases where gatherings in the Gangtok Bazaar area have caused a nuisance to public order, and that the potential for conflict was high, given that both SKM and SDF were planning rallies on the same day.
In response, Advocate General of Sikkim Mariarputham submitted that the Chief Secretary has already issued a circular on February 20 declaring not only that such strikes or bandhs would be illegal, but also that any organiser would face legal actions and be held liable for any damage caused.
The high court first noted the timeliness of the case, given that it had not afforded an opportunity to any of the private respondents to respond to the interim relief application filed by the petitioners. It noted that in All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam vs. Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu and Others [(2009)5 SCC 452], the Supreme Court has observed that "ordinarily, the High Court as well as the Supreme Court should refrain from passing any interim order the effect of which would be granting the main relief" but in cases where it is not possible to give notices to all necessary parties and hear them because of paucity of time and in case interim order is not passed, the main case would become infructuous" an "interim order should be passed".
On the merits of the interim application, the court held that "it is the duty of the State Government to ensure law and order and also to ensure that normal life of the citizens are not disturbed" and, as such, restrained the SKM and SDF from conducting their events on Thursday. It also directed the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police to ensure that any person involved in organising any bandh or disruption to public order be booked under the necessary provisions of law, and that a failure by either of these two officials to do so would attract appropriate actions from the court.
It held that "in case any public/private property is damaged and if anyone is prevented from moving from one place to another, necessary action be taken against those persons found involved in such damage or restraint and they shall also be liable to pay compensation as directed by this Court."
The court fixed April 1 as the date for the final hearing.