The Kerala High Court on Thursday observed it would be directing banned outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) to deposit with the state government over Rs 5 crore in compensation sought by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) for causing damages during the statewide ‘hartal’ , PTI reported.
Several state-run buses were damaged during the 12-hour hartal called by the Kerala unit of PFI on September 23 against the nationwide NIA raids and subsequent arrests of PFI cadre, leaders and office-bearers, a day earlier.
A division bench of Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias C P ordered that the amount of Rs 5.20 crore be deposited within two weeks.
Advocate Deepu Thankan, who appeared for KSRTC, said that the court also ordered that the outfit’s former state general secretary, Abdul Sattar, be made a party in all the criminal cases registered across the state in connection to the hartal and the destruction of properties.
The bench also said that none of the accused will be granted bail until they deposit the cost of the damages allegedly caused by the banned outfit.
In its pleas, the KSRTC contended that the hartal was called without any prior notice, which is in violation of the Kerala High Court’s 2019 order which made flash hartals/strikes illegal, and had said that a seven days prior notice must be given ahead of calling any hartals.
The transport authority claimed that about 58 buses were damaged, and 10 employees and a passenger were injured in the violence.
The plea further said that while it was already in severe financial crisis, the repair cost of its buses, the loss due to their inoperability during repairs and the reduction in service on September 23 due to the hartal has caused it an overall pecuniary loss of Rs 5,06,21,382.
“It is submitted that the massive loss incurred by the KSRTC is liable to be recovered from the perpetrators as the same was a result of their highly illegal and terrorizing act against the hapless general public. The KSRTC is entitled to get its loss from those who called for the hartal and they cannot wash their hands from the responsibility of payment of damages to KSRTC,” the plea read, as quoted by PTI.
On September 23, the Kerala High Court had initiated a suo motu case against the PFI and Sathar, who called for the state-wide hartal.
Multi-agency teams, spearheaded by NIA, along with the Enforcement Directorate, on September 22, carried out raids at 93 locations in 15 state, and arrested over 100 PFI leaders for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country. Kerala accounted for the maximum arrests at 22.
Meanwhile, the Centre on Wednesday, banned the PFI and eight of its affiliates or fronts under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) alleging “terror links”. The PFI Kerala state general secretary Sathar, later in the evening, informed that the outfit has been dissolved in view of the central government’s decision to declare it illegal, and that they will abide by the decision.