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Bharat Bandh: Know your rights and duties during

Hartal
BY: ASHOK KM SEPTEMBER 24, 2016 2:29 PM

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Are you legally bound to stay put in your home on a hartal day? Is it legal to bring
essential services like banking and public transport to a grinding halt? What are your
rights and duties on a hartal day? To know, read on

Over 15 crore workers in central public sector undertakings are expected to go on a nation-wide
strike today in response to the Bharat Bandh call by 10 Left-af liated unions in protest against
anti-labour policies of the government, bringing normal life to a halt. The possible fallout of the
strike could mean ashutdown of banks, factories and government of ces across the country.
However, the political parties and organizations that call for strike, purportedly espousing the
cause of public, should realize that they are, in effect, harming the public itself.

Citizens should realize that they have fundamental rights and that the Indian Penal Code and
other penal legislations, which criminalizes intimidation, restraint, etc., has application during
hartal days also.

The Supreme Court and High Courts have made it very clear through various judgements that
hartal (or whatever name it is called) should not infringe anyones fundamental rights. Some of the
pertinent observations made by the Supreme Court and High Courts regarding hartal are:

1997: Kerala High Court bans Bandh

Calling for abandhby any association, organisation or political party and the enforcing of that call
by it is illegal and unconstitutional. We direct the State and its of cials, including the law
enforcement agencies, to do all that is necessary to give effect to this declaration.Bharat Kumar K.
Palicha and Anr. Vs. State Of Kerala AIR 1997 Ker 291

1997: Supreme Court con rmed Kerala HC Judgment:

In The Communist Party Of India (M) vs Bharat Kumar the Supreme Court has con rmed the
Kerala HC Judgment. The Bench held as follows:

There cannot be any doubt that the fundamental rights of the people as a whole cannot be
subservient to the claim of fundamental right of a n individual or only a section of the people. it
is on the basis of this distinction that the High Court has rightly concluded that there cannot be
any right to call or enforce a Bandh which interferes with the exercise of the fundamental
freedoms of other citizens, in addition to causing national loss in may ways. We may also add
that the reasoning given by the High Court, particularly those in paragraphs 12, 13 and 17 for the
ultimate conclusion and directions in paragraph 18 is correct with which we are in agreement.
We may also observe that the High Court has drawn a very appropriate distinction between a
Bandh on the hand and a call for general strike or Hartal on the other. We are in
agreement with the view taken by the High Court.

2004: SC holds that there is no right to cause inconvenience in the name of hartal
In the name of hartal or bandh or strike, no person has any right to cause inconvenience to any
other person or to cause in any manner a threat or apprehension of risk to life, liberty, property of
any citizen or destruction of life and property, and the least any Government or public
property.James Martin v. State of Kerala(2004 (1) KLT 513 (SC)).

2004: Kerala HC says hartal should not obstruct others fundamental rights

A Full Bench observed:But whatever name it is called, whether general strike, hartal or any other
name, nobody can create a Bandh-like situation or obstruct the fundamental rights of
others.Those who call for hartals or strikes by whatever reason must make it clear in their call
that nobody will be compelled to participate in the hartals or strikes, that traf c will not be
obstructed and those who are willing may go for work and that fundamental right of others to
move about will not be affected.They must also instruct their supporters to see that no coercion
or force is used for compelling others to participate in the strike or hartal. (Kerala High
Court:George Kurian vs State Of Kerala 2004 (2) KLT 758)

2008: Kerala HC calls for appropriate legislation to curb hartal

The High Court observed inThe Proper Channel vs. Managing Director, KSRTC:

It is therefore necessary that the Government should step in and provide a simple and easy
method to any person, including statutory Corporations like KSRTC or a private individual, to
claim compensation for any loss they may suffer on account of such `forced hartals. Appropriate
legislation should be enacted granting suo motu powers to a competent authority to call for
claims, assessment of compensation, recovery etc. Unless such measures are taken, the menace of
`forced hartals cannot be curbed.

From the reading of the above judgements it is very clear that there is no right for organizations to
call hartal/strikes. Instead, it is the right of an individual to get assurance from such organizations
that call for hartal/strikes that he will not be stopped from travelling or working despite the
hartal.On any day, a citizen of India has the right

To move freely

To work in his/her workplace


To complain to the police if he/she is stopped from travelling, and

To sue the concerned for loss he/she suffers due to hartal/strikes.

Meanwhile, the organizations that call for hartal should follow the dicta laid in the judgments of
the Supreme Court and the High Court. They are duty bound to:

Make it clear in their call that nobody will be compelled to participate in the hartals or strikes

Make it clear that traf c will not be obstructed

Make it clear that those who are willing, may go for work

Make it clear that the fundamental right of others to move about will not be affected, and

Instruct their supporters to see that no coercion or force is used for compelling others to
participate in the strike or hartal.

Image from here.

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Topics: Bharat Bandh | Hartal | Kerala High Court