Gauhati HC bans blockades, agitators to pay for losses
Guwahati, March 19 (PTI): The Gauhati High Court on Tuesday ruled against bandhs and blockades declaring them illegal and unconstitutional and ordered the creation of a fund to recover losses during such agitations from the organisers.
Justice Ujjal Bhuyan passed the order while delivering the judgment on a writ petition filed by Lower Assam Inter-district Stage Carriage Bus Owner’s Association.
Justice Bhuyan also directed lodging of FIR against bandh and blockade organisers within 24 hours of their occurrence considering various judgments passed by the Supreme Court and different high courts on the issue.
The investigating officers in all such cases would carry out the probe expeditiously and file charge sheets before the competent criminal court promptly so that the offenders can be tried in a fast track mode, the court ruled.
The judgment said organisers of such blockades are liable to be prosecuted under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code 1860, National Highways Act 1956 and the Railways Act 1989.
In addition those indulging in violence and intimidation like preventing people from attending their duties during such agitations will also have to be booked under the relevant penal provisions, it said.
The petition against various state respondents and different organisations had sought imposition of exemplary punishment for calling illegal and unconstitutional bandhs for a total of 51 days from August 28, 2012 to August 31, 2013 in Goalpara, Bongaigaon and Kamrup districts.
Justice Bhuyan ordered that the home and political department of the Assam government make an assessment of losses caused to the state on account of the blockades which would be recovered from the organisers and their main office bearers as arrears of land revenue.
A ‘Bandh Loss Compensation Fund’ should be constituted by the department within a period of three months. The fund would be maintained by a retired district and sessions judge along with one administrative officer, he said.
The Fund authority will evolve its own procedure for quick settlement of claims lodged by an individual, public bodies and others against the agitators, the order said.
The court also directed the Assam Police Accountability Commission to monitor filing of FIR and registration of cases.
In case of any default or “non-seriousness” in complying with the guidelines, appropriate action may be taken by the Assam Police Accountability Commission in accordance with law, it added.
The Commission will submit the monitoring report to the Registrar (Judicial), Gauhati High Court once every three months, the judgement said adding the Registrar (Judicial), Gauhati High Court shall maintain a record of the monitoring reports submitted by Assam Police Accountability Commission.
Besides, the commissioner and secretary of the home and political department shall file contempt petition against the organisers and the main office bearers of such groups calling bandhs and blockades before the high court, Justice Bhuyan ruled.
In case of any default in carrying out the directions by the concerned authorities, they will be liable to face departmental proceedings besides contempt of the court.
The guidelines will hold the field till enactment of appropriate legislation by the state, he ruled.
Senior government advocate R K D Choudhury appeared for the state respondents and Advocate H Das appeared for the petitioner.