करंट टॉपिक्स

Seizure of PFI Properties; GoK Apologies Before HC

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Government of Kerala on December 23, tendered unconditional apology before the Kerala High Court as it failed to execute the Court order to recover from the outlawed Popular Front of India for damages, worth Rs 5.20 crores, caused to the public properties in connection with the ‘flash hartal’ the outfit carried out on September 23, 2022.

Division Bench consisting of Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP underlined, executive should change its attitude towards judiciary. Judiciary should not be treated as a department of the government. Bench’s oral observation was as follows –

We can’t be stuck in the past, the relationship between the executive and judiciary has to improve. The constitutional requirement is that we consult, concur and we work in tandem. We are not enemies; we are integral aspects of the government. Therefore, a mutual respect, a mutual cooperation is the essence of the day”.

The Additional Chief Secretary of Home Department Dr. V. Venu personally appeared before the Court. He assured that the previous Court orders would be complied with. And, the revenue recovery proceedings will be initiated against the assets and properties of the PFI as well as of their office bearers, including its secretary Abdul Sathar, by January 15,

The HC had initiated a suo-motu contempt proceedings on September 23, the very same day hartal was called by PFI. It was as a result of taking cognizance that the outfit had called for hartal sans the mandatory seven-day notice.

And, one of those days, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation moved the HC for compensation from PFI for the damages caused to its buses during the aforementioned hartal. It was due to the stone pelting and several other destructive acts of the hartal supporters.

HC had expressed its dissatisfaction during the last 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. Court is deadly serious about it. Officers under him did not seem to understand that Court gives instructions. They treat the Court as another department of the government.

Court is not that. This is a matter which needs serious consideration. Court said that that is why he is asked to be present personally. Court repeated its earlier observation that they should follow when there is a court direction.

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 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 says, 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. Court further said, time granted for compliance with the earlier directions would not be extended beyond January 31, 2023 under any circumstances.

Obviously, CPM-led Left Democratic Front with Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM supremo, as the Chief Miniser, 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 seizure operations are almost over. 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 neck-to-neck 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 no even a lame excuse, let alone any valid logic.

Now, a one-billion-dollar question ….What will happen on or before January 15, 2023?

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