Kerala HC tells PFI to pay Rs 5.2 crore in hartal damages
The Kerala High Court on Thursday took a tough stance against the Popular Front of India (PFI) for the damage its members caused to public property during a flash hartal called by the now-banned outfit.
A Division Bench of Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias CP ordered PFI and its state general secretary, A Abdul Sathar, to deposit Rs 5.2 crore with the additional chief secretary, Home department, within two weeks.
Furthermore, the court asked the state government to make Sathar an additional accused in all cases lodged in connection with the hartal violence. It has imposed stringent bail conditions for those arrested in these cases.
KSRTC suffered the worst
The Division Bench was hearing a petition moved by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) seeking damages worth Rs 5.06 crore for the violence. The court had earlier filed a case suo motu against PFI for calling a flash hartal, violating its 2019 order banning such strikes in the state.
During the hearing, the state informed the court that the KSRTC had primarily borne the loss of public property. The PFI workers attacked KSRTC buses in several places and smashed the windscreens. KSRTC suffered an estimated loss of Rs 25 lakh.
The KSRTC told the court that 58 buses were damaged and 20 employees injured in the violence. Disruption to its schedule had also caused losses to the corporation. For the destruction of property, 63 cases have been registered and 48 arrests made. More arrests are expected to be made.
Onus on state
The court pointed out that such hartals and bandhs severely affect the public and their lives cannot be jeopardized. It directed the state government to recover the revenue loss suffered by the KSRTC from the PFI and asked the administration to submit a report.
It also directed the magistrates and sessions courts to grant bails in the hartal cases only after ensuring that the accused had deposited the compensation amount. Otherwise, they must initiate strict proceedings, including attaching PFI’s assets and the personal assets of its office bearers.
The court also slammed the state administration for not taking effective steps to prevent the hartal. “Media reports also reveal that the police force played only a passive role in dealing with the situation till we pronounced our order,” the Bench added.
(With agency inputs)