“State’s failure to rein in those political parties that take the public to ransom amounts to a culpable omission in its sovereign function- in protecting its citizens,” said the Kerala HC.

13 years after Kerala man lost eye in hartal violence HC tells LDF to payBoard reads: Welcome to hartal's own country.
news Court Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 15:07

Holding the state government in power responsible for compensating the losses caused to citizens in hartal violence, the Kerala High Court has asked the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) to pay compensation to a victim. 

In a setback to the Pinarayi Vijayan government, a division bench of the HC, in the first week of January, dismissed its appeal to quash a single bench order. The court had directed the state government to pay compensation to Chandra Bose, a man from Kalamassery who lost one eye during a hartal violence way back in 2005.  

According to the petitioner Chandra Bose, a driver from Kalamassery, he lost sight in one eye in a stone pelting incident that happened at around 10.30pm on July 3, 2005. The LDF, which was then in the opposition, had called for a hartal from the midnight of July 4 to July 5.

Saying that it was undoubtedly the responsibility of the state government to ensure protection to its citizens, the HC went on to say that the state must recover the amount from the political party responsible for the violence. 

"As to the state's liability indeed, it goes without saying that the state ought to, as a matter of primary responsibility, protect the lives of the citizens. And its failure to rein in those political parties that take the public to ransom amounts to a culpable omission in its sovereign function- in protecting its citizens," the judgement reads.

Despite notices being served to the convener of LDF from Thiruvananthapuram, he did not appear at the court.

The case

Earlier in November 2017, a single bench of the Kerala HC ordered a compensation of Rs 7 lakh to be paid to Chandra Bose, asking the state government to pay 25% of the amount. The remaining amount is to be paid by the political party responsible for the violence.  

The LDF government then approached the HC, appealing against the single bench order asking them to pay up. 

However, dismissing the state government's appeal, the HC has also observed that Rs 7 lakh compensation was a "just figure."

"After paying the awarded amount to the respondent-driver, the state can, nay, must- recover it from the political party or front, as amount due to the state," the judgement reads.  

In its judgement, acting Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu came down heavily on the conduct of hartals in the state. 

Terming a hartal as "camouflaged bandh" that was banned long ago, the HC said that it was a phenomenon "to be watched and worried about" and said that everyone suffers from it. 

"Everyone- the banker, the baker, the butcher, the barber, the student, the shopkeeper- suffers. The economy suffers, the system suffers, the state's image suffers. If anybody violates the agitators'- usually political parties'- dictates and stirs out, or opens the office or shop, violence and wanton destruction are the never-failing nemeses. Disruption defines hartal," the judgement reads.