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Kerala HC's landmark orders against bandh and hartals become point of debate amid violence over Agnipath scheme

Kerala HC's landmark orders against bandh and hartals become point of debate amid violence over Agnipath scheme

Published:17 June 2022

With a spate of anti-Agnipath protests sweeping different parts of the country leading to arson and violence, a couple of landmark verdicts pronounced by the Kerala High Court banning bandh and restricting the calling of hartals and protest strikes without prior notice are becoming a topic of debate again.

Kochi | With a spate of anti-Agnipath protests sweeping different parts of the country leading to arson and violence, a couple of landmark verdicts pronounced by the Kerala High Court banning bandh and restricting the calling of hartals and protest strikes without prior notice are becoming a topic of debate again.
Considering the difficulties caused by unexpected agitations and shutdowns to the common people, a full bench of the state High Court had banned bandhs in 1997 and another bench ruled the forceful hartals as "unconstitutional" in the year 2000.
Subsequently, the Court issued orders on various occasions to check the violence and damages to public properties when the political parties and other outfits started calling for hartals or shut down to beat the court order banning "bandh." It was during the protests over the Sabarimala issue in 2019, the Kerala high court made it clear that no strike can be called in the state without a prior notice of at least seven days.
Condemning the practice of calling flash strikes, a division bench of then Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar had observed if prior notice is not given, people can approach the court and the government can take adequate measures to deal with the situation.
"Political parties, organisations and individuals who call for hartals are bound to give seven days prior notice," the court had said. Organisations and individuals, who call for hartal, shall be responsible for loss and damages caused on account of the shutdown, it had said.
While hearing a petition moved by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Thrissur-based NGO 'Malayala vedi against hartals' against shutdowns in the southern state, the high court had said in the absence of adequate enactments, hartals had become a continuous process.
Such flash hartals would affect the state's economy as well as the country's tourism prospects, it had said.
The court had also said though the right to protest exists, that shall not affect the citizens' fundamental rights.
Considering a petition seeking to declare the hartal called by LDF on September 27, 2021 as illegal, the Kerala high court had on September 24 last ordered the state government to ensure that the court's decision against hartals is implemented while ensuring fundamental rights of citizens.
The court had, however, dismissed the PIL seeking to declare as illegal, the state-wide hartal called by the ruling LDF to express solidarity with the farmers protesting against the Centre's anti-farm laws after the state government said it will ensure that no untoward incidents occur in the state due to the strike.
Protests have broken out in different states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana, with the agitators demanding the Centre to roll back 'Agnipath' scheme unveiled by the Ministry of Defence which is a pan-India merit-based recruitment scheme for enrolling soldiers, airmen and sailors into the various arms of the armed forces. Trains were set afire, public and police vehicles attacked and personnel injured during the protests. One protester was killed in police firing in Secunderabad in Telangana.


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