The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Kerala High Court judgement declaring forced bandhs in the state illegal, but issued a showcause notice on two modifications in the High Courts orders.
After losing its appeal, the Communist Party (Marxist) which heads the ruling coalition in Kerala sought two modifications. To begin with, the party wanted that the stipulated six-day notice to the authorities for calling demonstrations and processions should be substituted with a reasonable notice.
Further, the party opposed the High Court order that a brief note on the purpose of the agitation should be submitted to the authorities. The party argued that the authorities might prohibit the demonstration if they came to know that its objective was detrimental to the ruling party.
The High Court judgement, which was issued on July 28 and vehemently opposed by the CPM and its partners in the Kerala government, has now become final in all other respects. The Kerala government, Chamber of Commerce and several state organisations were parties to the appeal filed by the CPM.
The division bench headed by Chief Justice J S Verma stated in its order that after examining the High Courts judgement, they did not think that it called for interference. The judgement had drawn distinctions between a strike, a call for general hartal and a bandh. The apex court upheld this distinction. The High Court had also drawn appropriate distinctions between a bandh and a call for a general strike.
It was on the basis of this distinction that the High Court ruled that a bandh could not be enforced as it would affect the fundamental rights of the citizens, in addition to causing national loss in many ways. The Supreme Court agreed with the view of the High Court.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, representing the CPM, submitted that peaceful voluntary bandhs should be allowed. He conceded that there was no right to rampage, but said the High Court had gone too far by prohibiting strikes and hartals also.
However, the judges said the distinction made between strike, hartal and bandh by the High Court was correct. The right to freedom of expression was subject to reasonable restrictions, the judges observed.