The Kerala government on Friday apologised before the High Court for failing to start the recovery proceedings against members of the banned Popular Front of India who were engaged in a strike in September, Bar and Bench reported.

A division bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP, while criticising the government over the delay, said that the judiciary should not be treated as an arm of the state administration.

“We can’t be stuck in the past, the relationship between the executive and judiciary has to improve,” the bench said. “The constitutional requirement is that we consult, concur and we work in tandem. We are not enemies; we are integral aspects of the government.”

The Kerala High Court had initiated contempt proceedings against Popular Front of India leaders on September 23 following the violent protests.

The state road transport corporation had sought Rs 5.06 crore in damages after members of the organisation had smashed the windscreens of buses in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Panthalam, Kollam, Thrissur and Kannur.

On September 29, the Kerala High Court had asked the Popular Front of India to deposit Rs 5.20 crore as damages for losses incurred during the hartal.

In the last hearing, the court rebuked the state government for the delay in recovering the amount. It then asked Home Department Additional Chief Secretary V Venu to expedite the process.

On Friday, the court reiterated the urgency, Bar and Bench reported.

“Timely action is the essence in all these matters,” the court said. “You know the seriousness with which we dealt this case, we want to put an end to this sort of thing that happens in our state, especially when it comes to matters of public property; we are deadly serious about it.”

Raids against Popular Front of India

The Popular Front of India was created in 2007 through the merger of three Muslim organisations in southern India. It describes itself as an organisation that works towards “the achievement of socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the deprived and the downtrodden and the nation at large”.

In September, the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate raided premises linked to the Popular Front of India in 11 states and arrested over 100 leaders as well as functionaries.

Officials described the raids as the “largest-ever investigation process till date”. The searches, according to them, were carried out against those involved in terror funding, organising training camps and radicalising persons to join proscribed organisations.

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala has described the Popular Front of India as an Islamist organisation. In a statement filed in the High Court in 2019, the Left Democratic Front had linked the organisation to several political murders, an allegation denied by the Popular Front of India.