HC Calls for Mechanism to Ensure Recovery of Loss Caused in Hartals for KSRTC

The Kerala High Court on Thursday called for a legislation granting suo motu powers to the competent authorities to recover the loss which occurred during hartals by the respective political parties or organisations.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice A M Shaffique passed the order on a petition filed by the Proper Channel here, seeking a directive to the state government to initiate appropriate legal action against the wrongdoers who are  responsible for the total loss. The petitioner also sought a directive to recover revenue to the extent of `8.21 crore, which the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation lost during the hartals held on four days in 2008, from the parties responsible for the loss.

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The KSRTC said that during the hartals, several buses were damaged.

The KSRTC has suffered huge loss of revenue due to such hartals called for by political parties and other organisations. There have been instances where vehicles as well as personnel of KSRTC have been attacked and therefore, the Corporation was compelled to stop operation.

The Bench observed that unless measures are taken, the menace of forced hartals cannot be curbed. Calling for hartals for any reason has become a normal practice in the state.

Already, the Supreme Court as well as the High Court have laid down the law on this point. Forced hartal is illegal. But, if the public at large keep away from carrying on their normal day-to-day activities, there is no reason why the KSRTC should operate all their schedules when commuters are very few. The court said that the question was whether the public is willing to come forward to claim compensation for the loss suffered by them. Unless such action is initiated before a court of law and damages are assessed and decreed, it may not be possible for any court to direct payment of compensation to the aggrieved person. It might also be true that, taking into account the might of the organisation that calls for such hartals, the public at large may not be in a position to initiate appropriate action against the organisation calling and holding such hartals. Hence, the government should step in and provide a simple method to any person, including statutory corporations like KSRTC, to claim compensation for any loss they may suffer on account of such forced hartals.

The government submitted that it is ready to provide maximum protection to the general public and the KSRTC to operate services.

Point-Counterpoint

■ If the public at large keep away from carrying on their normal day-to-day activities, there is no reason why the KSRTC should operate all their schedules when commuters are very few.

■ Unless measures are taken, the menace of forced hartals cannot be curbed. Calling for hartals for any reason has become a normal practice in the state.

■ The question is whether the public is willing to come forward to claim compensation for the loss suffered by them.

The New Indian Express

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