The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bandh loses strike fig leaf

New Delhi, Sept. 30: The Supreme Court today drew a sharp line between strikes and “complete” shutdowns, robbing political parties of their usual excuse to flout the apex court ban on bandhs.

A two-judge bench restrained the DMK-led alliance from holding a Tamil Nadu bandh tomorrow, rejecting its claim that it had merely called a strike or hartal, which are not banned.

Strikes or hartals are directed against specific organisations or institutions, said the court, which had departed from practice to convene on a Sunday after being approached yesterday.

The judges noted that the alliance had issued “a call for complete cessation of all work” to protest against the Centre’s go-slow on the Sethusamudram project.

“Your own resolution says… to ensure complete cessation of all activities, then how can you say it is not a bandh'” the court asked.

“Who are you protesting against' The project, the Union government or the Supreme Court…. Don’t play with fire. Be cautious.”

The interim order will provide legal muscle to state governments willing to combat bandh calls while denying the rest excuses not to act.

When DMK lawyer A.K. Ganguly offered the standard argument that political parties cannot be gagged, the court said: “Rights of individuals are superior to those of political parties. Individuals stand on a superior footing.”

The alliance later said the shutdown was off. Instead, supporters and leaders would hold a fast.

Madras High Court, too, had held that the call was for a bandh but stopped short of passing an injunction against it. It instead told the state government to ensure there was no violence or disruption of public transport and flights, and no damage to property.

The ADMK and Janata Party then moved the apex court, which passed its interim order and asked the alliance partners — the DMK, CPM, CPI, PMK and the Congress — to reply to its notice.

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