SHILLONG, Dec 03: Leaders of the 13 pro Inner Line Permit (ILP) groups Tuesday failed to appear before the Special Court constituted by the state government to try the cases of arsons that cost the state exchequer Rs 31,09,50,158 as losses during the bandhs, picketing and blockades during the last three months of the agitations on ILP.
The Special Court headed by First Class Judicial Magistrate R Rymbai had fixed a hearing on the damage suit on Tuesday.
However, only the Civil Society Women Organisation (CSWO) president Agnes Kharshiing and general secretary W Thabah deposed before the Special Court.
Kharshiing and Thabah were the only ones to appear before the Special Court constituted by the state government to try and fast track cases that violated the Supreme Court ruling against bandh calls and shutdowns sponsored by the pro-ILP groups.
The CSWO which was one among the fourteen pro-ILP NGOs spearheading the ILP movement has recently disassociated from the current agitation saying that it would rather use laws of the land to fight for the introduction of the ILP in the state.
The court directed both of them to appoint a legal counsel and file a written statement on their own behalf.
The court is likely to conduct three hearings for this particular suit after which it is likely to pronounce an ex-parte judgment, court sources said.
The damage suit was filed by the Government against the pressure groups to ensure that they compensate the damages caused during the ILP related agitations by sponsoring bandhs, night road blockades and office picketing.
The pro-ILP organisations like the Khasi Students Union (KSU), the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP) and the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF) and 10 others have charged by the state government for calling shutdowns, picketing and blockades which the government said is “unconstitutional” and “illegal.”
“We have not prevented government employees from going to work during the office picketing... it was their own free will,” CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing told reporters after appearing before the court. She also questioned, “Why should we pay for the damages when we have not done it.”
Stating that there are several cases pending in the Deputy Commissioner’s offices on the MGNREGS, corruption, ostracism and rape cases, Kharshiing stated that the government’s action to speed up cases against the pressure groups was to suppress the people. “This is a form of dictatorship,” Kharshiing asserted.
Kharshiing further said that she would seek more time to reply to the charges.
According to the assessment carried out by the Deputy Commissioners of six districts, the department of personnel and the commissioner of taxes, the overall loss amounted to Rs 31,09,50,158.
The government has also held the NGOs responsible for the damages caused to public property during the agitation and said that the NGOs will have to pay the damages.
The state government through the political department secretary B Khongwir has filed damage suit against the NGOs and their leaders for being responsible for the losses amounting to Rs 31,09,50,158 to the government during the bandhs, picketing and blockades sponsored by the them, which he said has affected the normal functioning of government and businesses.
Meanwhile, sources informed that the leaders of the NGOs have decided not to appear before the Special Court.