Kerala HC Orders PFI to Deposit Rs. 5.20 Cr, says Flash Hartals Not Allowed

Priyanka Singh

Published on: 30 September 2022 at 20:15 IST

In a case of Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry v State of Kerala, on Thursday, the High Court of Kerala directed the Popular Front of India (PFI) to provisionally deposit Rs.5.20 Crores towards the damages as compensation for the destruction of property in the State due to the flash hartal called by the banned organization on September 23rd, the charges being estimated by the State Government and the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).

Advocate Deepu Thankan requested direction to the Popular Front of India party to compensate the KSRTC for the damage they suffered in the petition submitted through the Standing Counsel for KSRTC.

According to the appeal, the Popular Front of India (Respondents 12 and 13) unexpectedly called for a state-wide hartal on September 23. Since many people rely on KSRTC for their transportation needs, the corporation could not abruptly cease operations on that day. In addition, the State Police had issued an order mandating that law and order be maintained.

However, the protests became violent as the protestors threw rocks at the KSRTC buses, shattering the windscreens and destroying the seats of 58 KSRTC buses that provided services in the South, Central, and North zones, wounding ten workers and one passenger.

The petition further claims that the Popular Front of India’s leaders were detained by the National Investigation Agency for supposed anti-national actions, and that the hartal was called in protest of the Union government’s action.

KSRTC was frequently targeted by protesters and hartal participants in the past, but after the company filed proceedings under the Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act, KSRTC was always allowed to run on hartal days. As a result, the corporation suffered significant losses as a result of the PFI’s unplanned and unexpected action.

Additionally, it is said that on the basis of the allegations made by the concerned KSRTC officers, police had filed over 50 FIRs.

It is also argued that the KSRTC was formerly responsible for covering losses brought on by hartals and demonstrations on its own, but that due to the corporation’s current financial difficulties, it is unable to do so. The KSRTC is struggling to stay afloat even with the government’s assistance, and now a sizable sum is needed to rebuild the 58 buses that were destroyed.

Therefore, it is asserted in the petition that the enormous loss suffered by the KSRTC is subject to recovery from the perpetrators as a result of their egregiously illegal and terrifying act against the defenceless general public and that they are unable to absolve themselves of the obligation to make good on their obligation to pay damages to the KSRTC.

The Popular Front of India and A. Goviundan Nair (Respondents 13 and 12) were impleaded by the Kerala High Court on September 23 and suo motu contempt proceedings were started. The Kerala High Court had previously issued an order declaring that flash hartals are illegal and that seven-day notice is required before any hartal.

The company further requests that the application submitted to impleading KSRTC as an extra respondent be approved because KSRTC is not a party to the writ petition.

Justice Devan Ramachandran’s single-judge panel had previously ordered the State Government to explain how it intended to recoup from the Popular Front of India and its office holders the losses incurred by the KSRTC as a result of the attacks on the buses and the cancellation of trips during the PFI party’s flash hartal.

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