The Kerala High Court has initiated the suo motu contempt proceedings against Popular Front of India (PFI) for calling a flash hartal, previously banned by court.
In our order dated 7.1.2019, the court took note of the peculiar circumstances in the State of Kerala where calls for hartal, which ordinarily would not be viewed as illegal, have over the years come to carry an implied suggestion that the general public if they did not cooperate with those calling the hartal, might face threats of violence or actual violence.
Despite the order, which 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, apart from visiting the person/party with liabilities for any loss, damage caused to the citizens and Government pursuant to the call for hartals/general strike. A call for a flash hartal was made yesterday by the Popular Front of India.
The division bench of Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias C.P. has held that the action of the persons in calling for the hartal without following the procedure contemplated in our earlier order, prima facie, amounts to contempt of the directions of the Court in the order.
“While we are suo motu initiating separate action for contempt of the Courts order, dated 7.1.2019, we issue the directions in the wake of the situation that has now arisen, where an illegal call for hartal has been made by the persons, to the prejudice and inconvenience of the general public,” the court said.
The court directed that 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 details would be necessary for this Court to take remedial action to recover such losses from the perpetrators of the illegality.
The court stated that 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.
The court noted that in the Media reports about the flash hartal, there was 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 hartal called is in violation of the orders passed by this Court, the public be duly informed of the 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 court said.
Citation: W.P.(C).Nos.222 & 244 OF 2019