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17 Jun 2017

Take steps for normality: HC.... Morcha faces 69 crore vandalism bill of 2013 strike

TT, Calcutta, June 16: Calcutta High Court today directed the Bengal government to take all steps to restore normality in Darjeeling and implement an order to make the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha pay up for the damage caused by a bandh in 2013.
"State authorities would have to follow the order passed by a division bench of this court in 2013 when a petition was moved on a bandh observed in Darjeeling. The state government is also directed to take all possible steps to restore normalcy in the hills," acting Chief Justice Mhatre said.
If the 2013 order were to be implemented, the state government will have to recover from the Morcha as much as Rs 69 crore - the estimated value of the government properties damaged in the bandh then.
In today's order, the division bench of Justice Mhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty directed the principal secretary of state home department to file an affidavit detailing the government properties damaged since June 9, this year.
A senior lawyer said today's order means that the state government will have to bill the Morcha for the damage to government properties during the ongoing bandh.
The division bench of Justice Mhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty issued the directives on a petition filed by advocate Ramaprasad Sarkar on June 9.
The petitioner had sought an order asking the state to take penal action against Morcha leaders who had called the 12-hour bandh in the hills even after the Supreme Court had declared "bandhs and hartals illegal and unconstitutional".
In August 2013, the division bench headed by the then Chief Justice A.K. Mishra had directed the state to realise Rs 69 crore from the Morcha for damaging government properties. The order had followed a report by the state government that put the value of the properties damaged at Rs 69 crore.
The Morcha had challenged the order in the Supreme Court but the apex court had dismissed its appeal.
"The Morcha did not pay the amount and a contempt petition was moved before Calcutta High Court. The petition is still pending. I moved the court on the first day of the ongoing law violation by the Morcha," said advocate Sarkar, who had moved the petition in 2013, too.
Today, Sarkar informed the court that normal life in the hills had been paralysed. "The bandh supporters are forcibly closing down schools, colleges, government as well as non-government offices, shops and establishments in the hills. A number of government establishments was set on fire. The Morcha leaders are threatening the tourists. So, the court should intervene immediately," Sarkar told the court.
Two senior advocates, Y. J. Dastoor and Phiroze Edulji, intervened and sought the court's permission to add their client, Sanjiv Dawn, as a party.
As the court granted the lawyers' prayer, advocate Dastoor said in the court: "The order passed by the court in 2013 should be implemented in the hills. Peace and normality should be restored there."
The bench asked Dastoor to make the Morcha and their senior leaders respondents to the case and serve them notices asking them to take part in the case on the next day of hearing after two weeks.

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