Criticising the state government for failing to act against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray for enforcing Marathi signboards on shops, the Bombay High Court on Thursday told the authorities to “wake up and take steps to restore the confidence of common man in the state administration”.
“Gone are those days when we used to worship heroes like Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Today, terrorists are being worshipped,” said Justice JN Patel while hearing a petition filed by the Federation of Retail Traders’ Welfare Association. The association has challenged the letters purportedly written by Thackeray to shopkeepers, asking them to put up Marathi signboards in bold lettering.
“Nowadays, terrorists send e-mails and warn about their plans before indulging in terror crimes. Raj Thackeray also sends written notices before his acts, and while you get hold of terrorists, you cannot arrest him (Raj),” a visibly upset Patel, sharing the bench with Justice KK Tated, said.
Patel made these observations after taking on record a letter written by the petitioners to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, urging action against Thackeray. The MNS chief and his party workers continued to “terrorise” them by throwing stones at their shops and ATMs, auto rickshaws and taxis in Chembur even after the court had passed and order against such acts, the shopkeepers said.
“If a political party does something good for the people, we will highly appreciate (it), but here all energy is used for destruction. If any other common man was in his place, he would have been arrested and put behind bars. Even the home minister had taken a strong objection to a remark made by Joint Police Commissioner KL Prasad about Thackeray that the city was not the personal property of anyone, then why spare MNS chief,” the court asked.
Observing that the state was a mute spectator to the “misdeeds” of Thackeray and his party, the judge said the government was not following the law in letter and spirit. “Be serious, otherwise every party will bully you,” the judge warned and asked the state to file an affidavit by October 16, detailing what steps it proposed to take against Thackeray.
Government pleader DA Nalawade told the court, “We will take action as per law. The first priority of the state was to maintain law and order. There cannot be an extra-constitutional authority who can take law into his own hands.”