MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Thursday sought an affidavit from the state on compliance of a 2004 order which required police to issue a notice on a political party calling for a bandh.
The HC sought the state’s response after counsel R D Soni arguing a PIL filed by ex Mumbai CP Julio Rebeiro and other senior citizens cited the previous ruling while seeking Rs 3000 crore compensation from three political parties of the erstwhile MVA government for an alleged "state sponsored" bandh in Maharashtra last October to protest farmer deaths in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh.
Soni said the UP violence had no connection to Maharashtra to even suggest the need for a bandh here.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleged that three parties which formed the ruling alliance then had called for the bandh and must be made to shell out the amount through a bandh loss compensation fund.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja admitting the PIL, did not grant any interim relief at this stage, but sought to know what steps had the police taken "to avoid the bandh".
The 2004 judgment by the then HC bench headed by Justice A P Shah had declaring enforcement of a bandh to be an "unconstitutional act" directed police to service notice to the political party to inform them of bandh’s illegality and its liability for legal action ad to pay compensation for loss of life or livelihood due to such bandh.
The State represented by additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan referred to the state’s affidavits which denied it had called for the bandh, saying contrary to petitioners’ claim no cabinet decision was taken for the bandh. Soni said media reports indicated that the bandh was state sponsored, to which Chavan questioned the petitioners for placing reliance only on the media reports.
She said the state merely expressed solidarity with the farmers’ cause.
PIL sought setting up a compensation fund. The HC observed despite numerous judgment, bandhs abound and asked how did the petitioners arrive at the figure they did. It said any mechanism to quantify damages has to be through a law. Courts have to ensure that people’s rights are not trampled on.
Lawyers also go on strike, said Chavan citing one example of a strike in Kolhapur.
The bench said a "judicial order won't solve this (recurrence of bandhs)". it also said, “As a part of the judiciary, we cannot give moral lessons to the State Government."
The police department in its reply said the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had called for it and it found support from others. It also said the police had immediately taken steps to maintain law and order in Mumbai via additional bandobast through riot control units and more personnel patrolling the streets.