Now, property destruction during stirs a costly affair

TRIVANDRUM - The Kerala High Court has made destruction of public property during agitations costly by making it mandatory for all those seeking bail in such cases to deposit the value of the destroyed property.

By (T K Devasia)

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Published: Fri 14 Oct 2011, 12:52 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:46 AM

The judgment was passed by Justice K T Sankaran while granting bail to five students who had ransacked a school at Calicut during a strike in August 2011. The court has directed the students to deposit Rs50, 000 each as value for the property destroyed.

The amount will be refunded if the students were finally absolved. The court has also asked 17 activists of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist), to pay Rs130, 000 towards the value of the property they damaged for their release. The DYFI men, who included senior leader advocate Mohammed Riyas, had caused damage to the government property while taking out a march to the Public Works office at Calicut last month.

Justice Sankaran observed that public property was being destroyed very often during strikes by political parties and their feeder organisations. The strike sometimes may be genuine, but it cannot violate the citizen’s right over such property.

The court cannot remain a mute spectator when public property was being destroyed. The verdict is among a series of judgments delivered by the high court against various forms of agitations. The high court, for the first time in the country, had banned bandh in 1998 and forceful shutdowns in 2000.

The high court had also recently imposed restrictions on wayside meetings, disrupting the movement of the people. The order to recover the value of the damaged property is considered significant since the state has one of the largest numbers of strikes in the country.

The state has been witnessing a spurt in attacks on public property. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses, government vehicles and offices in the course have been the major targets of the agitators. The recent agitations by the students unions over the self-financing college issue have led to extensive destruction of property across the state.

The Supreme Court has also been viewing destruction of property during agitations called by various organisations seriously and urging the state governments to enact laws to prosecute leaders of such organisations for the damages.

Though Kerala already has laws to prevent damage to public property convictions and recovery of the damage have been very slow. The state government is considering setting up fast-track courts to deal with such cases.

Labour Minister Shibhu Baby John has sought the opinion of the Law Department in this regard. The move is in the light of apprehensions expressed by investors about agitations that disrupt normal life and cause extensive damage to public property.

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