With the Jat agitation paralysing rail traffic in parts of northern India, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the Haryana government to immediately get the rail tracks cleared of protesters to restore normal movement of trains.
Giving the direction on a public interest litigation filed by city-based non-government organisation National Consumer Awareness Group Society, the division bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that unaffected and unobstructed train movement throughout the length and breadth of the country was in national interest.
The bench, also comprising justice Kanwaljeet Singh Ahluwalia, directed all the groups who are spearheading the Jat agitation demanding reservation in Central government jobs to exclude the blockades of trains from their agitational programmes with immediate effect.
It will, however, be open for them to continue their agitation, if they so desire, in any other peaceful legitimate and non-violent manner, the court said. On Tuesday, the High Court had directed the Haryana Government to inform it by Thursday about the steps taken to restore normal movement of the trains.
The bench observed on Thursday that though it was primarily for the executive arm to handle situations like the present one as maintenance of law and order is a function of the state, the courts cannot remain a mute spectator and can also take notice of several newspaper articles of today and yesterday.
The bench further observed that the ongoing agitation, as per the material before the court, has caused large-scale disruption of train movement including that of trains on the Delhi-Chandigarh route, which has resulted in enormous loss of revenue, besides inconvenience to the public.
The bench held that taking into account all the circumstances, they were of the view that the different agitating groups who may have a right to agitate for redressal of their just grievances have to limit the modes of agitation within the parameters of law, without adversely affecting national interest.
Earlier, an affidavit was filed by the state of Haryana and it was mentioned that though police force and paramilitary force in requisite has been mobilised to deal with the situation, use of force at this stage was not considered expedient as the same may become counter-productive because the situation was surcharged and any error of judgment or a pre-mature use of force could trigger large-scale violence.
The ongoing three-week-long stir by Jats has badly affected rail traffic in northern India, forcing the Northern Railways to cancel several trains and divert routes of some others. The Jats are demanding quota for the community in Central government jobs under other backward classes category. With disruption in the supply of coal, the Rajiv Gandhi Thermal Power Plant, Khedar, Hisar has been closed.