The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC hits where it hurts strikes
- BJP, Sena to pay fine before court hears petitions

New Delhi, Sept. 16: The Supreme Court today sent out a “message” to political parties by ordering the BJP and Shiv Sena to pay a Rs 20-lakh fine, slapped by Bombay High Court, for holding a bandh two years ago.

The allies had moved the apex court challenging the fine, but a three-judge bench said their petitions can be heard “only” after they have paid the fine and produced the receipt.

Political parties cannot “hold the society to ransom” by calling bandhs, the court said, before advising them to “come out with alternat(iv)e forms of protests in their manifesto itself”.

The ruling ' which said anyone violating “the law laid down by this court” should “face the consequences” ' is set to open a fresh chapter in the continuing clashes between the judiciary and the political establishment.

The bench referred to the 1998 Kerala High Court judgment, upheld by the Supreme Court, banning bandhs and providing for fines on violators.

As soon as Uday Lalit, senior counsel for the BJP and Sena, rose to begin his arguments, Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, presiding over the bench, stopped him in his tracks by saying: “We can’t permit political parties to hold the society to ransom.”

When a stunned Lalit mumbled something about “terrorism” (the bandh was called in protest against the December 2002 Ghatkopar blasts in Mumbai), the judge shot back: “Bandh is not an answer to an act of terrorism or a bomb blast'.

“Terrorism is a global phenomenon today... look at the London blasts! Did any party there further affect civil life by organising bandhs' It is wholly impermissible... how can the voice of the people be just ignored by all political parties saying ‘we don’t care’'

“Trains and buses don’t run... several deaths take place... the damages have to be so deterrent that anyone who violates the law laid down by this court should face the consequences.”

The high court had fined the BJP and Sena on a public interest litigation filed by a group of prominent citizens, including B.G. Deshmukh, Alyque Padamsee and Julio Ribeiro.

The deadline for payment was to expire on Saturday, but the apex court today extended it by a week. The bench of Justices Sabharwal, C.K. Thakker and Raja Varadarajulu Raveendran ordered the state government to set up a “bandh loss compensation fund” where such fines should be paid.

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