HC directs Marxists to pay for hartal damage

via www.dailypioneer.com published on February 1, 2006

Pioneer News Service/ Kochi

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the CPI (M) and its youth wing Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) to pay a compensation of Rs 10,500 to a man who suffered loss when his textile shop was damaged during a hartal called by them.

The direction was issued by a Division Bench, comprising Justice JB Koshy and Justice V Ramkumar, on a writ petition filed by the Merchants Association of Kodungalloor and CK Rajan, seeking compensation for the loss suffered by the latter.

The bench directed that the compensation should be paid within a month, failing which the petitioners could initiate appropriate proceedings including contempt of court.

In view of the High Court’s earlier judgment that political parties and organisations who call for hartal and bandhs and who enforce such calls are liable to pay compensation for the loss suffered by them, “CPI (M) and DYFI ‘vicariously’ are liable to pay compensation to the petitioners,” the court held.

Though both the CPI (M) and DYFI denied having made a call for hartal, the bench, however, said there was no reason to disbelieve newspaper reports in this regard.

The petitioners submitted that due to the violence during the hartal on November 7 last, the window panes and name board of their shop were broken.

In its 29-page judgment, the bench said no person had the right to hold the public to ransom or ‘disable’ his fellow citizens from their daily pursuits.

There was no “genuine” attempt from the State Government to defeat the call and pave the way for orderliness, the bench pointed out.

“The State very often takes the role of ‘silent’ spectator. The inertia, lethargy, inaction or inability of the State and its functionaries during such occasions maybe due to political reason,” the bench observed. “But that is poor solace to the public who are invariably at the receiving end.”

Even though the political party or organisation that made the call was not directly responsible for the violence and consequential loss, still the party or organisation that makes the call for hartal was vicariously liable to pay compensation for such loss, the judges held.

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