In 2018, Kerala witnessed 97 hartals and 2019 has already witnessed a hartal in the very first week of the year. With political parties, trade unions and even socio-political groups calling for hartals without any due notice, the Kerala High Court has stepped in and passed an order on Monday, banning flash hartals.
The Court has held that any group that wishes to call for a hartal should declare it seven days prior and any citizen can approach the court, challenging the hartal during the seven-day notice period. The order was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar on a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to LiveLaw, the PIL also sought for police protection for commercial establishments and shops during hartals. The hartal called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi last week had turned extremely violent with altercations between the BJP cadres, other right-wing groups and the police and CPI(M) being reported from districts across Kerala.
About 5,769 people were arrested and almost 1,900 cases were registered due to the widespread violence between BJP-RSS and CPI(M)-DYFI workers. Although various trade unions had announced at the end of 2018 that they would not cooperate with hartals, the violence that was unleashed on January 3, forced shops to shut down. In places like Kozhikode’s Mithai Street, though a few shopkeepers attempted to defy the hartal, they were eventually forced to shut down.
The PIL by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry has named all political parties in the state as respondents. This includes the Congress, Kerala Congress(M), CPI, CPI(M), BJP and IUML. The court has also asked the government that the nationwide trade union strike on Tuesday does not impact public life.