The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court asks govt to pay bandh damages

Calcutta, Aug. 23: Calcutta High Court today asked the government to provide compensation for damages to public property during the Bengal bandhs called by the Trinamul Congress on June 7 and August 5.

A division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas asked the high court registrar to convey the order to state chief secretary S.N. Roy.

The judges were about to dismiss the damage plea when the petitioner’s lawyer, Bikash Bhattacharya, pointed out that though the Supreme Court had declared bandhs illegal, the ban was not being implemented and people had nothing to turn to but the court.

The judges were acting on a case filed by Anwar Alam Khan, a high court advocate.

Khan had petitioned the court saying that bandhs were “illegal” after the Supreme Court order and the damage to public property during a bandh day should be compensated for by the concerned government.

Alam argued that it is the duty of the government to take steps against the people who had called the bandh, as it was illegal.

On June 5, Justice Ajay Nath Roy had expressed the court’s helplessness in dealing with bandh calls or preventing shutdowns.

He was reacting to a petition by another advocate, Idris Ali.

Ali had subsequently filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court asking it to declare the Trinamul-sponsored June 5 bandh “illegal”.

The petition is still pending before the apex court.

Justice Shyamal Sen had ruled in 2000 that bandhs were illegal and had asked the government to provide adequate security to all those who wanted to work on a bandh day.

In the petition that was heard today, Khan said the apex court had upheld a Kerala High Court judgment making bandhs illegal way back in 1997. In that judgement, the apex court had ruled that the government should take steps to recoup the loss caused to public property from the sponsors of the bandh.

The petition argued that bandhs were always “anti-people” and forced losses on self-employed people.

“The bandhs are called by political parties only to show off their strength,” the petitioner said.

Khan added that the violation of the Supreme Court order was not only unconstitutional but “anti-national”. In some states, bandhs are more like “official holidays”, irrespective of their cause or the political parties responsible, he said.

The petition also said that parties sponsoring bandhs were liable to be derecognised by the Election Commission.

The same division bench that asked the government to pay up for the bandhs, today rejected a public interest litigation demanding action against the police personnel accused of beating up women members of the SUCI who had put up a roadblock at Hazra.

The bench said the police had taken action as no one had the right to block the road and cause traffic disruption in the name of protesting against a particular issue.

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