The Kerala High Court on Monday pronounced a ban on flash shutdowns, making it mandatory for any organisation, political or otherwise, to issue a notice for the invoking of a bandh at least seven days in advance.
The order of the Division Bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar added that any citizen can challenge the shutdown within the seven days of its call. The order comes days after the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of right-wing outfits led by the RSS, gave the call for a state-wide bandh on January 3 protesting against the entry of young women at the Sabarimala shrine.
The hartal led to widespread violence across the state, the death of a BJP worker in stone-pelting, injuries to several police personnel and the arrest of over 2000 people accused of perpetrating violence. Over 100 KSRTC buses were vandalised during the hartal, causing massive losses for the beleaguered road transport company. The state’s tourism sector and trade organisations, who had actively boycotted the shutdown, faced huge economic losses. Read in Malayalam
The interim HC order, in response to a PIL filed by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry against hartals, called for organisations, who invoke the hartal, to be liable and responsible for any damages incurred on the day. The court also ruled that the ruling administration must provide security to the public during the 48-hour shutdown beginning at Tuesday midnight called by trade union parties.
The court observed that any violence during a shutdown is unconstitutional and that it impacts a citizen’s fundamental rights. Everyone has the right to protest, but no one should be forcibly made to participate in a protest, the court noted.
In Kerala, there were 97 shutdowns alone last year.