Traders move HC to ban hartals

Two organisations of traders on Friday approached the Kerala High Court seeking to prohibit hartals called by various political parties and other organisations in the State.

The public interest litigations were filed by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Sulthan Bathery Merchant Association. Another petition was filed by George Vattukulam from Thrissur.

According to the traders, the State had lost more than 96 working days in 2018 following hartal calls by various political organisations. The situation was deplorable. The holding of hartals infringed on the fundamental right of traders and other people. In fact, hartals had the effect of bandhs which had been banned by the High Court.

The petitioners said that bandh and hartal were different nomenclatures of the same method, affecting the normal life of the citizen. No political parties or organisations could claim that they were entitled to paralyse the industry and commerce and to prevent citizens from exercising their fundamental rights or duties.

Such claim could not be accepted as legitimate exercise of a fundamental right by such political parties or organisations. The political parties or other organisations had the right to call for non-cooperation or call for a general strike as a form of protest, but they could not violate the fundamental right of another citizen who was equally entitled to exercise their rights.

It was the duty of the government to take effective measures to curb the practice of holding hartal or strike at any cost, the petitioners said. They also sought a directive to the State government to provide adequate police protection to citizens and their property against the obstruction being made by the callers of hartals.

The petitioners sought to fix a compensation to be recovered from persons or party organisations organising hartals.