KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Thursday held it was the state government’s duty to ensure people are warned of prompt legal action in case they create any law-and-order problem or disturbance during hartal.
The High Court said it had held hartal and bandh are illegal. The state should also assure citizens of its full protection as against the illegal hartal called by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala. The Division Bench also issued a notice to him by speed post.
The bench issued the order on the petition filed by Mallappally panchayat ward member Sojan Paviyanose. According to him, calling a hartal by Chennithala, who is the Opposition Leader, is an offence under 166 (Public servant disobeying the law, with intent to cause injury to any person) of IPC.
Sojan said Chennithala was holding a Cabinet rank and having staff, facilities, salary and allowances of a minister. The petition said despite the specific directives by the Supreme Court and High Court, political parties were frequently calling hartal and general strike causing serious difficulties to citizens. The High Court had earlier held whenever a hartal or a general strike was called, the government should take adequate measures to see citizens’ normal life was not paralysed.
That is to be done not by declaring holidays or postponing examinations, but by giving effective protection to those who are not participating in such hartals or strikes. Hartal is outdated and destructive. The government pleader submitted in view of the Kerala HC judgment there was no distinction between bandh and hartal, the government had issued instructions to all police officials with regard to the steps required to be taken to ensure public order is maintained.
“In our view, even if there is no intimidation, people generally avoid taking risk fearing damage to their life and property. It would be the duty of the state to dispel this fear amongst people,” the court held.
It also said inter-departmental communication had to be made public immediately so public is aware government would seriously protect their life and property, and the fear instilled in them by the illegal call for hartal vanishes. Therefore, the government should take steps to advertise the communication in newspapers immediately so people know police officers are available in case of any problem.
‘Oppn leader does not come under purview of public servant’
Kochi: The state government submitted offence under section 166 of IPC will not attract against Opposition Leader as he does not come under the purview of ‘Public Servant’. Citing Delhi High Court’s order in Sushil Modi case in 2007, the state submitted that Leader of the Opposition in a State Assembly is not a public servant under criminal law.