Kochi: In a crucial order, the Kerala High Court on Monday ruled that hartals and other types of shutdowns should be announced seven days in advance. Otherwise, strict liabilities should be slapped on the protesters apart from registering cases against them, the court said.
The court said an individual's right to live is above one's right to protest.
The bench comprising the chief justice issued the order on a batch of pleas submitted by petitioners including the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and Thrissur-based Malayala Vedi seeking a ban on shutdowns.
The court sought the stance of the state government on frequent shutdowns that paralysed normal life in Kerala.
"The violence taking place amid hartals is anti-Constitutional. It affects the fundamental rights of the people. There should be a comprehensive programme to stop such violence," the court said.
The court said everyone has the right to protest but others should not be compelled to participate in it. "Hartals have become a joke. The working days of schools and offices have come down due to it," the court said.
The court asked whether those who stage the shutdowns have realised the public anger against such protests.
The KCCI, in its plea, said as many as 97 hartals were staged in Kerala in 2018 alone. The Malayala Vedi sought to appoint a claims commission to assess the damage caused to public properties during hartals.
The government told the court that the police have taken all necessary steps to avoid untoward incidents during the two-day national strike called by various trade unions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Elamaram Kareem, the state secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), assured earlier that traders will not be forced to shutter shops. A fraternity of 45 organisations of traders and entrepreneurs in Kerala have announced they will keep shops open during the strike.