Ranchi, Dec. 3: Jharkhand High Court today restrained the main Opposition party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, from calling and enforcing any bandh anywhere in the state.
The court also ruled that any loss of public property or production during general strikes should be made good from the assets of the organisation or the party concerned and its office-bearers.
The landmark judgment, delivered by a bench of Chief Justice P.K.I. Balasubramanyan and Justice Tapen Sen, came in response to a criminal contempt case filed by an advocate, Shailesh Kumar Singh. The advocate was attacked by a mob in the presence of policemen during a bandh called by the JMM on August 21 while he was coming to the court.
An element of ambiguity crept in after the verdict was delivered with some wondering whether the order applied only to the JMM. However, Sohail Anwar, a senior lawyer, said: “The ruling will apply to all political parties and organisations calling bandhs. The court has named the JMM as it was a party in the present case.”
Senior JMM leader Stephen Marandi said the party would examine the order and, if necessary, appeal before the Supreme Court. The reaction of other political parties was mixed.
The common man greeted the order with relief. Since its formation, Jharkhand has seen an average of one bandh every month.
But a lawyer wondered how law enforcers would implement the order when banned extremist outfits, “who take the lead in calling bandhs in the state”, order shutdowns.
The court observed that initiating action for recovery of damages from the party or organisation calling the bandh was the clear duty of the Union and state governments, but “this duty was seldom performed by them”.
“This direction, if implemented properly, will result in the putting down of the menace to progress and the obstruction to the forward march of this great nation,” the judges said in their eight-page order.
Apart from the state, the director-general of police, Ranchi deputy commissioner, Ranchi senior superintendent of police, Sadar police station officer-in-charge and the JMM’s Ranchi district president were respondents in the case.
The court observed that bandhs were resorted to with such frequency that “one could roughly say that unless there was a bandh a month, some of the political parties would not be happy”. During these bandhs, the court said, violence was let loose and properties of the Union government and railways were attacked.
The bench observed that railway stations were set on fire or dynamited and railway lines dismantled without any compunction. It observed that the railway authorities did not take any action against miscreants who attacked passengers and damaged property.
The court, however, dropped contempt proceedings against the JMM on the ground that the petitioner had not named any particular person. But the petitioner can initiate proceedings after the criminal prosecution is completed.