KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Thursday held it was the state government's duty to ensure that people are warned of prompt legal action in case they create any law-and-order problem or disturbance during hartal.
The High Court had held that hartal and bandh are illegal. The state should also make sure that normal life is not affected during 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 the IPC.
He said Chennithala was holding a Cabinet rank and having staff, facilities, salary and allowances of a minister. The petition said despite specific directives by the Supreme Court and High Court, political parties were frequently calling hartal and general strike causing serious difficulties to ordinary citizens.
The High Court had earlier held that 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.
The government pleader submitted in view of the Kerala HC judgment there was no the distinction between bandh and hartal, the government had issued instructions to all police officials informing them of steps that should be taken to ensure that 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.