SC boost to ban bandh

WITH the Supreme Court, yet again, heavily censuring all agitations that cause disruptions to normal chores and public life along with issuing strong instruction to the government to imprison and extract monetary penalties from bandh/strike sponsors, it could be safely concluded that Manipur police will be facing more torrid times in case the apex court decree is to be executed in spirit and letter. The top court backing the Union government’s move to make the existing laws tougher in order to firmly deal with the agitators will depend entirely on effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies as one of the court’s instructions include capturing video clips of the destruction caused to public property during agitations. It ruled that police will be under an obligation to video record every event to ensure that those guilty can be booked. Insistence on documented evidence makes it very clear that the apex court is determined to nail those indulging in acts of arson and to leave no room for the accused persons to escape punishment, unless he/she could provide proof of innocence. As per the ruling, the SC stipulated guidelines, which include two years jail term and monetary fine against those convicted, will hold till the bill drafted by the central government has been passed as a law. Besides entailing that both organisers of an event (bandh) and actual perpetrators of violence should be made to pay exemplary fines to deter such acts, it ruled that enforcing the directive should be the personal responsibility of the senior superintendent in charge of a district.

In 1998 too, the Supreme Court had upheld a Kerala high court ruling banning bandhs but the tradition of disrupting normal public chores continues, regardless of the fact that such agitation do little except trample upon fundamental rights of citizens. It remains to be seen how effective the latest Supreme Court decree will be in Manipur, which is often referred to as ‘Bandhpur’ on account of various crippling agitations from time to time. Manipur is one place where the public experience the harsh impacts of bandhs/strikes. The state faces regular imposition of bandhs/strikes that the sponsors think is their right to protest alleged failure by the authorities to round up persons accused of involvement in crimes. Resorting to agitation is being generally construed as the undeclared right of the aggrieved party to both slam the establishment for non-fulfilment of a particular demand and to make the authorities heed their call. It is the common weapon to bring the establishment to its knees and compel it to reach out to the agitators to iron out differences or strike agreement for bringing early and amicable solution to issue at hand. For much too long, it has been daily wagers who face the brunt of shutdowns but no political organisations – with exception of the ruling dispensation, show any enthusiasm for dragging leaders of bandh sponsors to the court of law. While pulling up the agitators in the valley would be relatively easier, it would be an uphill task for the law enforcement agencies to crack down on strike sponsors and enforcers in the hills where the so-called long arm of the law gets infirmed.

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