| AGP supporters take out a mass rally in Guwahati on Friday to protest against the recent violence in BTAD and other areas and implementation of the Assam Accord. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Aug. 31: The Assam government is considering a legislation to prohibit bandhs in the state.
Additional advocate-general K.N. Choudhury made this submission in Gauhati High Court today during a hearing on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Arun Pathak seeking action against organisers of bandhs.
A division bench of Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan directed the state government to file an affidavit on the PIL before November 15, the date of the next hearing.
The petitioner’s counsel, Bhaskar Dev Konwar, said they have sought imposition of exemplary damages of Rs 1 crore each on Bajrang Dal and All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) for enforcing statewide bandhs on August 27 and 28 respectively.
Both the bandhs were called in connection with the violence in Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) and adjoining areas.
The petitioner appealed to the court to direct the state government to set up a “bandh loss compensation fund” into which the aforesaid amount could be deposited to be eventually paid to the citizens who have suffered injury or loss of property because of the bandhs.
Pathak also urged the court to direct the state government to initiate suo moto criminal proceedings, to be investigated by the CID, against the organisers of the aforesaid bandhs.
He appealed to the court to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against the organisers of the two bandhs for having wilfully violated the law laid down by the Supreme Court in this regard.
Responding to the petition, the additional advocate-general said the matter was being looked into with a view to bringing about a suitable legislation and also to take further legal action.
Choudhury also produced a copy of a wireless-transmitted message, dated August 29 and issued by the state government, directing the police and civil administration to take appropriate action against anybody trying to enforce a bandh. The message was signed by principal secretary (home and political department) Sailesh.
“We are of the view that the state has to have a consistent policy in the matter instead of taking action on selective basis. In view of the above, let appropriate affidavit be filed on behalf of the state of Assam before the next date (November 15),” the high court said in its order.
The state government had on Wednesday prohibited calling of bandhs for a month in accordance with a Gauhati High Court order in January 2010 that declared bandhs as “illegal and unconstitutional”. It took the step following the widespread violence during the AAMSU-sponsored bandh that created communal tension in the state.
Kerala High Court had first declared bandhs “illegal” in 1997. The order was upheld by the Supreme Court later that year. Gauhati High Court passed a similar order in 2010.
Since January this year, Assam has witnessed 23 statewide bandhs, 48 district bandhs, 65 road blockades and 13 rail blockades. But so far, the government had done little to enforce the court order banning bandhs and strike or to recover compensation for any damages caused to public and private property because of the protests.