The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court frowns, bandh folds up

Ranchi, Dec. 6: A sharp and strong reaction from Jharkhand High Court today forced the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to withdraw tomorrow’s bandh call in Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal as a protest against the alleged “NDA conspiracy” in getting party chief Shibu Soren convicted for murder.

The bandh is both unconstitutional and unfair, declared a division bench headed by Chief Justice M. Karpagavinayagam.

If bandhs are called against every judicial order of conviction, the court observed, there would be bandhs and strikes every day. The unfair practice also flies against directives given in the past by the Supreme Court as well as Jharkhand High Court, the judges observed.

JMM leaders, who had promised a “peaceful bandh” tomorrow, got into a huddle, once they learnt of the high court’s observation. By evening, the party decided against defiance and called off the agitation.

By then most schools had announced that they would remain closed on Thursday and bus and three-wheeler operators, too, had decided to keep away on bandh day.

“Soren has to fight a long legal battle in the Shashinath Jha murder case. There is no point in antagonising the judiciary at this point of time. So the party leadership decided not to go ahead with the bandh,” party sources said.

Lawyers were consulted before taking the decision, they claimed. They conceded that preparations were afoot to disrupt train movement tomorrow besides ensuring that vehicles do not ply.

Crestfallen JMM workers, who had taken out torchlight processions early in the evening, dispersed after being informed of the decision.

The strategic withdrawal saved the state government the blushes since it would have been forced to get tough with JMM supporters tomorrow, in view of the high court’s observations, if the party had gone ahead with its plan.

But JMM leaders pledged to hold “peaceful” sit-ins and demonstrations tomorrow. Not willing to take chances, the state government beefed up security at the CBI offices and deployed additional security. Districts were also alerted to maintain vigil.

The division bench, while hearing an application moved by one Krishna Kumar, observed that the court had, in an earlier case, declared a JMM-sponsored bandh illegal. The order was passed in December 2003 in a case filed by a high court advocate, Sailesh Kumar, whose vehicle had been damaged by bandh supporters. The high court had then imposed specifically a “ban on bandhs” and the restriction remained, the court observed today.

The bench, therefore, agreed with the counsel that if the JMM still went ahead with the bandh, it would amount to contempt of court. The bench said there are other ways of showing resentment against an order by a court of law and an appeal could be filed before a higher court.

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