The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
An Unprecedented Attack on Rights of Political Parties
The Election Commission has sent a notice to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to show cause why it should not be dereigstered as a political party on the basis of a judgement by the Kerala High Court which has declared the holding of hartals by force as illegal and unconstitutional. A petitioner in the Kerala High Court on whose complaint the High Court had delivered the judgement has made a complaint to the Election Commission against the CPI(M) for calling a hartal in Kerala on 23rd September, 1998. The High Court had issued a writ of mandamus to the Election Commission to consider and dispose off any such complaint.
This is an unprecedented judgement by the Kerala High Court which seeks to deregister a political party for exercising a fundamental and democratic right of calling for a protest action. To characterise a hartal as illegal and unconstitutional is a gross violation of the rights of political parties to conduct peaceful mass protests.
The Kerala High Court overruled the stand taken by the counsel of the Election Commission that it has no power to deregister a political party under the law. The court has issued an arbitrary and uncalled for directive to the Election Commission to initiate proceedings for deregistering a political party under the provisions of the Representation of People Act.
Every political party in India, at some time or the other, calls for bandhs, general strikes and mass demonstrations against government's policies or police repression or any matter affecting the people. The Kerala High Court judgement muzzles the right to collective protest and it will strike at the very root of parliamentary democracy based on political parties.
The CPI(M) will not accept any such restrictions on the rights of political parties in a democratic system. Any coercion or use of violence during a hartal can be dealt with under the existing provisions of the law by the authorities.
The CPI(M) has decided to appeal against the judgement in the Supreme Court as it is a matter of utmost public importance. It will also give a suitable reply to the Election Commission.
The General Secretary of the CPI(M) has written to all the opposition parties explaining the pernicious implications of this judgement. It has requested all political parties to take a stand in defence of the rights of political parties in a democratic system.