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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Kerala HC deems PFI’s flash hartal as contempt of its order; initiates suo motu action

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High Court also ordered the police to take steps to prevent damage to public property

High Court also ordered the police to take steps to prevent damage to public property

Observing that the hartal called by the Popular Front of India (PFI) prima facie amounted to contempt of earlier High Court orders on the conduct of hartals, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday impleaded the Popular Front of India and its General Secretary A. Abdul Sathar as respondents in a suo motu case pending against the call for flash hartals.

Previous orders

While initiating the suo motu case based on the writ petitions filed by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry and others, the Bench had earlier directed that political parties or any person or association of persons which call for hartal and general strike should give public notice seven days in advance. The notice period would enable citizens to approach the court with their objections and the court could examine the legality of the strike call. It would also enable an opportunity for the State to take measures to safeguard the interests of the citizens.

The court had also made it clear that hartals/strikes called without adhering to the above procedure would be deemed to be illegal and unconstitutional. Besides, the persons or organizations which called for such illegal hartal/strikes would be liable for loss or damage caused to the public and government during the hartal period.

HC observation

The Bench observed that despite the High Court orders, a call for a flash hartal had been made by the PFI. The action of the PFI in calling for hartal without following the procedure prima facie amounted to contempt of the directions issued by the court.

The court on Friday also directed the police to ensure that adequate measures were put in place to prevent any damage/destruction being caused to public/private property of the government/citizen who did not support the call for hartal

The police should also monitor the activities of the supporters of the PFI and place before the court a report on details of such illegal activities and also the damage caused to the public/private properties, the court ordered, observing that the details would be necessary to recover losses from the perpetrators of the illegality.

It also directed that adequate police protection be provided to all public utility services which apprehended violence at the hands of the supporters of the hartals.

The court posted the case for further hearing on September 29.

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