The Kerala High Court has directed the Popular Front of India (PFI) to deposit an amount of Rs.5.20 crores with the Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department, towards the damages estimated by the State Government as well as the KSRTC as arising from the destruction and damage caused to public and private property in the State.

PFI had called for a hartal on September 23.

The Court also directed that if the said amount is not deposited by them within the period of two weeks, the State Government, shall take immediate steps, inter alia by invoking the provisions of the Revenue Recovery Act, to proceed against the assets or properties of the PFI organization, as well as the personal assets of its office bearers including the Secretary, for realisation of the aforesaid deposit amount.

The Bench of Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P observed that the State Administration did nothing to prevent the hartal on September 23, 2022.

"It is of some concern that notwithstanding our declaration that the very calling of a flash hartal was an illegal and unconstitutional act, the State Administration did virtually nothing to prevent the hartal organizers from going ahead with their illegal demonstrations and incidental road blockages on 23.09.2022.", the Bench observed.

The Court noted that it had impleaded Popular Front of India, represented by State General Secretary and A. Abdul Sathar, State General Secretary, Popular Front of India, Kerala State Committee as additional respondents, and issued notice to them, taking note of their illegal act of calling for a flash hartal in the State without complying with the requirement of giving seven days public notice for the same.

The Court observed that "We are of the firm view that the 12th and 13th respondents are wholly and directly responsible for the injuries inflicted on the members of our citizenry by their supporters, as also for the damage/destruction caused to public/private property by the said persons."

"Their action of inciting their supporters and goading them into the violent acts that were witnessed across the State on 23.09.2022 cannot be legally countenanced. They must be held responsible and made accountable for their illegal actions.", the Court held.

The Court has directed the State Government to ensure that the State General Secretary, PFI is arrayed as an additional accused in all the cases filed before the various Magistrates and Sessions Courts in the State in connection with said flash hartal.

The Court further directed the Magistrates and Sessions Courts in the State, to ensure that payment of any amount quantified towards damage or destruction of property by any of the accused, is insisted from the accused concerned as a condition for the grant of bail to him while considering the bail applications of those persons against whom cases have been registered by the Police in connection with the flash hartal.

Case Number- W.P.(C).Nos.222 & 244 OF 2019

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