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Kerala High Court: The Bench of Sunil Thomas, J. dismissed a bail application filed by an individual under Section 438 CrPC, for being involved in acts of vandalism during hartal called by a political party.

Facts of the case were that a political party had declared a hartal in Kerala. The uncle of de facto complainant opened his shop despite the call for hartal. Defacto complainant went to the shop in the morning. Petitioner along with other persons abused him and caused damage to the movables in the shop. When the defacto complainant intervened, petitioner hit him on the head injuring his right eye. A case was registered against petitioner for offences punishable under Sections 143, 147, 294(b), 308, 323, 324 and 427 read with Section 149 of the Penal Code, 1860. Apprehending arrest, petitioner approached this court seeking anticipatory bail.

The Court noted that the aforesaid criminal acts were done by the petitioner under the cover of hartal called by a political party. Petitioner and his group’s act was nothing but sheer vandalism, under the guise of hartal. Call for hartal by any political party only gives the right to the members of that political party to withdraw themselves from their work as a protest. They may also persuade their fellow workers to withdraw from their work. But that does not empower them to commit criminal acts, much less, any act intended to interfere in the exercise of the fundamental right of any person to move freely anywhere in India and to carry on his trade or business anywhere in India. Reliance was placed on Full Bench decision of this Court in George Kurian v. State of Kerala, 2004 SCC OnLine Ker 42 where it was held that nobody can be compelled to participate in hartal and general strike.

Further, the Court also relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Kodungallur Film Society v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 713 where it was held that any mob violence and crime by self-appointed keepers of public morality, terrorizing common man without legal sanction and causing loss of life and destruction of property, should be dealt with seriously. It was opined that bail applications filed by persons charged with such offence should be dealt with circumspection.

In view of the above, anticipatory bail was rejected.[Vinod. P v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1012, Order dated 20-02-2019]