Dec 2, 2008

India - Can parties be asked to pay for bandh damage ?

J. Venkatesan

Supreme Court issues notice to Maharashtra government

Bombay High Court slapped Rs. 40-lakh compensation on Shiv Sena, BJP

Court presumed violence without verifying truthfulness of reports: parties

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine whether political parties could be directed to pay compensation for the damage caused in violence during a bandh they called in July 2003.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam issued notice to the Maharashtra government and petitioners, on whose petition the Bombay High Court in July 2004 directed the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party to pay Rs. 20 lakh each as compensation for the loss of public property during the bandh called by them.

Refuses to stay order

In September 2005, the apex court refused to stay the judgment saying it would not hear the appeal until after the Sena and the BJP deposited the amount with the Bandh Loss Compensation Fund set up by the State government.

On Monday, counsel for the parties informed the Bench that the amount was deposited within a week as directed by the apex court. As larger questions were raised in the appeals, it issued notice to B.G. Deshmukh and seven other respondents (who filed the writ petition in the High court) and the government.

In their SLP, the Sena and the BJP said the High Court did not discuss how the bandh was violent and disruptive. It presumed violence without verifying the truthfulness of newspaper reports and without calling for evidence in support of these accounts.

The SLP said a call was given for a peaceful bandh to express the people’s feelings against the bomb blast at Ghatkopar, in which four persons were killed and 48 others injured. Contending that fundamental rights of the political parties to call a bandh were violated, the SLP sought quashing of the judgment.

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