Kerala : The government of Kerala , on December 23, tendered an unconditional apology before the Kerala High Court as it failed to execute the Court order to recover from the outlawed Popular Front of India (PFI) for damages, worth Rs 5.20 crores, caused to the public properties in connection with the ‘flash hartal’ the outfit carried out on September 23, 2022.
Division Bench consisting of Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP underlined the executive should change its attitude towards the judiciary. Judiciary should not be treated as a department of the government.
Bench’s oral observation was as follows:
“We can’t be stuck in the past, the relationship between the executive and judiciary has to improve. The constitutional requirement is that we consult, concur and we work in tandem. We are not enemies; we are integral aspects of the government. Therefore, a mutual respect, a mutual cooperation is the essence of the day”.
The Additional Chief Secretary of the Home Department, Dr V. Venu, personally appeared before the Court. He assured me that the previous Court orders would be complied with. And the revenue recovery proceedings will be initiated against the assets and properties of the PFI and their office bearers, including its secretary Abdul Sathar, by January 15, 2023.
The HC had initiated a suo motu contempt proceedings on September 23, and PFI called the very same day hartal. As a result of taking cognizance, the outfit had called for hartal sans the mandatory seven-day notice.
And one of those days, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) moved the HC for compensation from PFI for the damages caused to its buses during the hartal, as mentioned earlier. It was due to the stone pelting and several other destructive acts of the hartal supporters.
HC expressed dissatisfaction during the last hearing for the delay in the recovery of Rs 5.20 crores. The Court directed Dr Venu to personally submit an affidavit sworn by him showing the details of the time frame for recovering the damages. Court asked him to instruct the officers under him about the seriousness each court direction carries; they should be aware of the significance of abiding by them promptly. The Court said timely action is essential in all these matters.
The Court explained how serious it was in this particular case. It wanted to end such happenings in the state, especially when they concerned public properties. The Court is deadly serious about it. Officers under him did not understand that Court gave instructions. They treat the Court as another department of the government. The Court is not that. This is a matter which needs serious consideration. The Court said that that is why he is asked to be present personally. Court repeated its earlier observation that they should follow when there is a court direction.
The Court found the government’s attitude discernible from the averments in the paragraphs of the submitted affidavit. It was wholly unacceptable and per se disrespectful to the directions of the Court. The government cannot adopt such a callous attitude when called upon to implement the recommendations of the Court, especially in matters of public interest and involving the destruction of the public appropriately.
The government said in its affidavit submitted on December 19 the Revenue Department informed them that the auction and requisition procedure on the properties of PFI and Sathar would take more than a month. It says District Collector reported his inability to assist the Claims Commissioner due to insufficiency of staff and shortage of space. Still, alternative arrangements are taken in consultation with the Ernakulam District Collector.
Court noted that the government had assured it on November 18 that directions had been conveyed to the Revenue Department, District Collector, and a Claims Commissioner had been appointed. The Court observed that government could not adopt such an indifferent attitude, especially in matters of public interest and the destruction of general properties. Court further said time granted for compliance with the earlier directions would not be extended beyond January 31, 2023, under any circumstances.
CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) with Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM supremo, as the Chief Minister, maintains a slow and soft attitude to the banned Popular Front. GoK is either trying to protect PFI from the payment of compensation or giving them time to organize money by hook or crook. Since NIA froze the shady bank accounts of PFI accomplices, their liquidity has been badly affected. Their money transactions are badly affected. BJP has alleged that when the outfit gets breathing time, they can transfer the ownership of the properties so that authorities cannot touch them; hence the GoK’s slow pedalling is deliberate.
In other states, the seizure operations are almost over. In Kerala, the Pinarayi regime is reported to have advised the police not to create an impression that PFI men are chased and harassed. The reason is simple: Minority Vote Bank Politics. LDF and Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) are in neck-to-neck competition to grab the minority vote. Under these circumstances Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PDPP Act), 1984 finds a comfortable place in the waste bin. And, PFI gets the ‘powerful’ patronage.
Reports suggest NIA has submitted a list of the properties belonging to PFI leaders and workers. Pinarayi, who engineered the violation of Sabarimala traditions by taking young and undesirable women to the temple, in the darkness of night, with a police escort, had a lame excuse: “Comply with the Supreme Court verdict”. The same Pinarayi is not complying with the High Court order, but not even a lame excuse, let alone any valid logic.
Now, a one-billion-dollar question: What will happen on or before January 15, 2023?