Bombay HC issues notices to MVA allies for calling state sponsored bandh in October 2021

Evident from wireless messages that MVA called for bandh, says the court

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, November 25, 2022, 08:06 AM IST
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Bombay HC | Photo: Representative Image

Mumbai: Noting that the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) called for a bandh as was “evident from wireless messages”, the Bombay High Court has issued notices to Maha Vikas Aghadi partners – the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena (UBT). The court even questioned on what one of the petitioners – former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Rebeiro – did to stop the bandh when he was in service.

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Abhay Ahuja observed, “Since it is evident from the wireless message that the bandh call had been given by the MVA, and that the constituents of MVA who are respondents 3, 4 and 5 have stayed away from proceedings till date, we issue a rule against such respondents.”

The HC was hearing a PIL filed by Mr Rebeiro and three others challenging the State Government-sponsored one-day bandh on October 11, 2021, which was called to express solidarity with the farmers’ protest and the mowing down of farmers in Lakhimpur, Uttar Pradesh.

The PIL alleged that the bandh had caused a loss of Rs3,000 crore to the public exchequer.

The HC had directed the MVA partners to file their replies by January 9.

“What steps did he take to discharge his duties to stop bandh? He is a very respected person and has been in service as an ambassador to a foreign country,” said CJ Datta. He added, “There is a general trend in the country that people don't do anything when they are in service but after retirement, they come up.”

RD Soni, the advocate for the petitioners, said that a court’s order would act as a deterrence against calling such strikes.

Remarking that it will not pass “futile orders”, CJ Datta said, “These orders will never be implemented. When there is no execution on the ground, you will again file a contempt petition.”

The judge referred to its 2017 order for the removal of illegal banners and hoardings. “Has it stopped?” asked the CJ. “When I was hearing the PIL a banner was put up just by the side of my residence.”

Urging the court to declare the strikes illegal, Mr Soni sought that a compensation fund be set up for those who suffered losses.

The bench referred to a judgment passed by Kerala High Court, where the court did not grant any compensatory relief in a bandh-related plea, and the same was upheld by the apex court.
“Why did it not direct compensation? Because the court has its boundaries. Under Article 226, we the HC cannot quantify damages. The judges said there are SC judgments that HCs cannot direct the State to legislate. It can direct to enforce the rights of persons that are trampled upon.  This is the extent to which were going,” said CJ Datta.

The bench asked whether anyone complained about the October 11 strike. “Any such incident where a private citizen wanted to go to work and was prevented by political parties? We cannot go on a roving inquiry,” the CJ said.

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