CALLING FOR “BUNDH” CONSTITUTIONAL OR UNCONSTITUTIONAL?
Living in India today, we all are familiar with the term “bundh”. The calls for bundh, strike, and hartals are very frequent in our country but yet their constitutionality remains a question. It is still a debated topic as many times they are linked with right to freedom of speech and expression, Article 19(1)(a) that is on of the fundamental rights which gives citizens right to form association or uninion, but is it still the valid justification for its constitutionality?
SO WHAT DOES “BUNDH” MEANS?
The literal meaning of the word “bundh” or “bandh” is strike, tumults, hartal, or shutting down which includes the closure of shops and other establishments. It is a form of protest used by political parties in South Asian countries like India and Nepal. In this it is expected from the general public to stay in their houses and not to report for work, shops to be closed and roads to be clear and the transport system is also disturbed. Bundh is powerful means of civil disobedience that majorly have an impact on the life of common people as it affects their day-to-day life.
SOME OF THE SIGNIFICANT BUNDH
In protest of economic changes implemented by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, the BJP and other parties called for a statewide bandh on September 20, 2012. Their main complaints were the elimination of subsidies for cooking gas and diesel, as well as the decision to permit foreign investors to hold the majority of stock in the retail industry, which includes supermarkets and department stores.
In response to an attack on Buddhists, some Hindu dalits, and Sikhs by proponents of the Hindutva ideology at Koregaon Bhima in the Pune region of Maharashtra, and the lack of police action against the perpetrators, Prakash Ambedkar called for a bandh on January 3, 2018.
CALL FOR BUNDH IN CONTEXT WITH ARTICLE 19
The right to organise bundh is not expressly granted to residents or citizens under Article 19 of the constitution. Regardless of whether non-voilent, the investigation is being discussed as a part of their granted fundamental right that is freedom of speech and expression, citizens have the right to hold strikes, protest peacefully.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF BUNDH
The Indian Supreme Court has pronounced the bandh illegal and unconstitutional after seeing the detrimental effects of the strike. People who are afraid and do not support these kinds of activities should be aware that they are protected by a number of laws, including the most significant one, the Indian Penal Code, which makes constraint, force, and intimidation against others during bandhs and even hartals illegal. Through a number of rulings, the Supreme Court and other high courts have made it quite evident that the bandh violates citizens’ basic rights to discretion and freedom and harms the nation in several ways.
JUDGEMENTS AGAINST CALL FOR BUNDH
The first significant ruling on “strikes” and “bandhs” was made by the full bench of the Kerala High Court in the case of Bharat Kumar K. Palicha v. State of Kerala, which ruled that a peaceful strike is legitimate and not unconstitutional, but a bundh is because it constitutes a flagrant violation of others’ human and fundamental rights.
Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India. AIR 1978 According to AIR 1978 SC 5976, the Indian Constitution’s Articles 19 and 21 recognise the right to free movement as a fundamental freedom. The right to an education, which is a fundamental right, is reportedly violated when schools are forcibly closed down during bandhs. Most crucially, Article 21 of the Constitution protects the right to medical care, and courts have supported it in cases like Parmanand Kulara v. Union of India.
AIR 1989 SC 20397. As stated in Khurak Singh v. State of U.P. AIR 1963 SC 12958, not only physical prevention or intimidation, but even a psychological restriction would be a violation of a citizen’s fundamental right. It is true that when bandh is called there may not be any apprehension of threat or violence, but I believe and it is largely correct that t here is clearly a psychological threat of what will happen if you go out and do not observe the bandh.
In light of this, the Kerala High court declared it unconstitutional and even Supreme court upheld the decision. The Kerala Regulation of Hartal Bill, a piece of legislation created by the Keralan government in 2015, made it illegal to impose hartals on the general populace using force, threats, or physical harm. Before planning a gathering, all organisers are required to get approval from the state’s authorities. This approval must be given at least three days in advance.
BUNDH IMPACT ON SOCIETY
Bundh call have a major impact on public specially the daily wage workers who work daily for the money as their working schedule gey disturbed. Common people also have a negative impact of bundh as they are not able to go for their work and the education sector is also impacted due the closure of Schools.
When a bandh is declared, people are expected not to travel, do business as usual, or show up for work. It is inferred or expressly stated that any attempt to oppose the call for a bandh could result in physical harm. During the bandh, there is a potential that public property will be damaged. A nonviolent strike that respects people’s rights and property is not against the law In the current case, the High Court awarded compensation against the State for property losses and a person’s death during the Bandh because the authorities had failed to act appropriately and provide adequate assurances for the people’s lives, freedoms, and property.
Lastly, because of hartals and bandhs, assessments should never be skipped and transnsportation should never be suspended. It undermines public morals and supports such tactics used in conflicts to force the government to comply with demands. However, bandhs and hartals might be essential in our society for accurately voicing thoughts if they are carried out in a peaceful manner and in accordance with the law.
Author: Nataliya Fatima,
2nd year student of B.A. LL.B (hons.) atLovely Professional University