करंट टॉपिक्स

Confiscation of PFI Assets; Kerala High Court’s Ultimatum to Government

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Kerala (VSK). High Court’s Division Bench, consisting of Justice A.K.  Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias CP, on January 18, expressed absolute dissatisfaction with the failure of Government of Kerala (GoK), within the time frame they (GoK) had set before the Court on December 23, 2022, to confiscate the assets, of the outlawed Popular Front of India, worth Rs 5.20 crores caused to the public properties in connection with the ‘flash hartal’ the outfit held on September 23, 2022. Today the Bench issued an ultimatum to confiscate the assets before January 23, 2023. Not only that, GoK has to submit before the Court the district-wise details of the confiscated assets with the names of the leaders and the value of the assets respectively. The Court said that there is no need for issuing any notice before confiscation.

It is to be remembered that Additional Secretary of Home Department Dr. V. Venu personally appeared before the Court on December 23, 2022 and tendered unconditional apology for failing in executing 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’. He assured that the previous Court orders would be complied with. And, the revenue recovery proceedings would be initiated by January 15, 2023, against the assets and properties of the PFI as well as of their office bearers, including secretary Abdul Sathar.

During the hearing, Division Bench had underlined the change in the attitude of the Executive towards Judiciary. Judiciary should not be treated as a department of the government.

The Kerala High Court had initiated a suo-motu contempt proceedings on September 22, the very same day hartal was called by PFI. It was the result of taking cognizance that the outfit had called for hartal sans the mandatory seven-day notice. And, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) moved the HC for compensation from PFI for the damages caused to its buses during the hartal. Damages happened due to the stone pelting and several other destructive acts by the hartal supporters.

HC had expressed its dissatisfaction, during a previous 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 made aware of the significance of abiding by them in a timely manner. Court said, timely action is essential in all these matters. Court explained how serious it was in this particular case. It wanted to put an end to such happenings in the state, especially when they are concerning public properties. Officers under him (Dr. Venu) did not appear to be understanding that Court gives instructions. Bureaucrats treat the Court as another department of the government. It is wrong. This is a matter for serious consideration. Court said, that is why he is asked to be present personally. Court repeated its earlier observation that GoK should follow court directions.

The Court found the attitude of the government, as discernible from the averments in the paragraphs of the affidavit it submitted. It was wholly unacceptable and per se disrespectful to the directions of the Court. The government cannot adopt such callous attitude when called upon to implement the directions of the Court especially in matters of public interest and involving destruction of public properly.

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 said, District Collector informed 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, government had assured it on November 18 that directions had been conveyed to the Revenue Department, District Collector and also a Claims Commissioner had been appointed. Court observed that government cannot adopt such an indifferent attitude especially in the maters of public interest and the destruction of public properties.

Obviously, CPM-led Left Democratic Front with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM supremo, 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 organise money by hook or crook. Since NIA froze the shady bank accounts of PFI accomplices, their liquidity is 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 confiscation operations were almost over before early December, 2022. In Kerala, 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. Both LDF and Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front are in tight 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 police escort, had a lame excuse, that is, “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 excuse.

Even today, January 18, NIA carries on the raids in PFI facilities. It is found that PFI, despite the ban Central government imposed on it on September 30, 2022, continues its organisational activities under its Intellectual Wing. The activities are carried out by ‘Area’ and ‘Division’ Reporters. Physical Trainers reinforce their activities. The (underground) Reporters prepare hit lists of RSS workers. State Intellectual Wing verifies them and plan the ‘operations’ on ‘priority basis’.

NIA arrested PFI terrorist Mohammed Sadiq in Chavara, Kollam district in Kerala during wee hours of January 17. He is the former PRO of PFI. There are reports of his statement during the interrogation that hit lists of RSS men are always conveyed to the state leadership. NIA has recovered during the raids hit list of RSS leaders belonging to Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.

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