The Maharashtra government on Monday told the Bombay High Court that it had not taken any cabinet decision calling for a statewide bandh on October 11 last year. The bandh was held to express solidarity with the farmers’ protest and the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
The Mumbai Police also informed the HC that as soon as the bandh was declared, the state government diligently ensured that the law and order situation was maintained and hence the state cannot be held liable. The tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and the Mumbai Police filed their affidavits in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by four senior citizens including Julio Ribeiro, former police commissioner of Mumbai, challenging the one-day shutdown.
As per the plea, the bandh called to express solidarity with the farmers’ protest and the Lakhimpur incident had caused a loss of Rs 3,000 crore to the public exchequer. “As per the said Minutes of the State Cabinet meeting held on October 6, 2021, the State Cabinet had only expressed grief and offered its condolences and tributes to the farmers who died in the unfortunate incident that took place at Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh,” the state’s affidavit said.
Police stated that as soon as the state government came to know about the bandh, the police machinery was set in motion immediately and necessary steps were taken to ensure that the law and order situation is maintained. “The state government was prompt, diligent and alert in ensuring that the law and order situation is maintained and no harm or injury is caused to any person,” the affidavit said. It added that around 60 cases were registered during the October 11 shutdown.
“The State government cannot be held liable for the alleged incidences and hence the petition be dismissed,” the affidavit filed by Sanjay Latkar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), said. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik posted the petition for further hearing on June 20.
The PIL seeks the high court to declare the bandh as “unconstitutional and illegal” and direct the three political parties- Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress- to pay compensation to the affected citizens. On October 3 last year, a convoy of vehicles, including one owned by Union minister Ajay Mishra, allegedly ran over a group of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. Four farmers and a journalist were killed and several others were injured. In the violence that followed, two BJP leaders and the driver of a vehicle were also killed.