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15 Jul 2017

Live in peace: SC on hills - HC asks Centre to send more security forces... SC appealed citizens to understand that sustenance of law and order or living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilisation

TT, July 14: The judiciary today ordered the Centre to send more security forces to the hills and appealed to the citizens of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to "understand that sustenance of law and order or living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilisation".
The gist of the separate orders issued by Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court is as follows:
• The Centre must send four more companies of security forces to the hills. Until the high court issued the order today, the Centre had been reluctant to send additional forces.
• The forces will be used only to maintain law and order in the hills; they cannot be diverted to other assignments.
• The central government shall carry out the obligations stated before the Supreme Court.
• The entire administration of Bengal should provide all the requisite support so that peace is maintained in Darjeeling and Kalimpong.

Appealing to the people, the apex court said: "It is apposite (apt) to state here that the citizens of these districts must understand that sustenance of law and order or living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilisation and reflective of the accentuated culture and, therefore, they shall also treat it as a part of their duty that free flow of peaceable life is not in any way jeopardised or affected."

The apex court bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M. Shantanagounder was dealing with a petition by the Sikkim government and two MPs that sought steps to ensure the free flow of supplies, affected by the protests in Bengal.

Both the supporters and opponents of Gorkhaland have been accused of targeting trucks headed to Sikkim. Initially, the trucks were affected by the strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and a driver had died of burns.

Later, when Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling made comments supporting Gorkhaland, trucks were attacked near Siliguri, triggering allegations that those against the statehood demand were responsible.

The Centre told the court that steps were being initiated to ensure the supplies to Sikkim were unaffected.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that it had asked the Bengal government to ensure that the supply lines to Sikkim were not disrupted by the protests. New Delhi added that that defence secretary had been requested to instruct formations in the area to facilitate the movement of vehicles carrying petroleum products and other commodities. The Centre has also asked the agency concerned to ensure adequate food stocks in the districts.

The Supreme Court took note of the assurances and added: "Ordinarily so saying, we would have closed the case, but we are obliged to say that the central government shall carry out the obligations that has been stated before this court and the entire administration of the state of West Bengal shall provide all the requisite support so that peace is continuously maintained in the areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts."

The top court then issued the appeal to the people.
Earlier in the day in Calcutta High Court, the division bench of acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre and Tapabrata Chakraborty said: "The central government is directed to send four more companies of the CRPF for deployment in Darjeeling and Kalimpong within 48 hours after receiving the copy of the order."

Two advocates had moved separate petitions on June 17 seeking an order declaring the ongoing bandh "illegal".
The state and the Centre submitted two reports in the court on a meeting they had held in Delhi. The state said that till date, 113 law-enforcement officers had been injured, 54 vehicles and 73 government properties damaged and 93 tea gardens closed. The Centre spoke of security commitments elsewhere in the country.

The state's report mentioned that the Centre had been informed that "Maoists from a neighbouring country have infiltrated into the area and are going to target officials working in the hills and burn down government buildings".

A senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader said this evening: "We have never stopped any Sikkim vehicle as we have no reason to stop them as the state's chief minister supported our issue. Whatever problem is taking place is in the plains where we have no control. The state government should address the issue."
He added: "As far as the strike is concerned in the hills, it has become a people's movement."

A state government official said the court order came as a relief. With the deployment of additional forces, the administration can play an active role in restoring law and order, he said.

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