The Supreme Court today said earlier notices sent to the alleged protestors by district administrations of Uttar Pradesh for recovery of losses caused due to damage to public properties during the anti-CAA agitations in the state have been virtually revoked as the government has enacted a new law.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna posted the matter for further hearing on November 22 after the petitioner’s counsel said that they need to file a rejoinder affidavit to the reply filed by the UP government.
“You see a new Act has come into play in the State, so the earlier notices stand virtually revoked,” the bench observed.
The UP government has passed a new law earlier this year called The Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Bill, 2021 under which protestors found guilty of damaging government and private property will face imprisonment or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh.
On July 9, the State government had told the top court that under the new law, tribunals have been constituted and the requisite rules are framed.
The top court had asked the State government not to take action on earlier notices sent to the alleged protestors but had said that the government can take action as per the law and follow new rules.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Parwaiz Arif Titu seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged protestors by the district administration for recovering losses caused by damage to public properties during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) agitations in Uttar Pradesh and asked the state to respond to it.
The plea has alleged that such notices have been sent in an “arbitrary manner” against a person, who had died six years ago at the age of 94 and also to several others including two people who are aged above 90.
On January 31 last year, the top court had issued notice to the state government and asked it to respond to the plea.
Titu had contended that these notices were based on an Allahabad High Court judgement delivered in 2010 which “is in violation of the guidelines” laid down by the top court in a 2009 verdict, and re-affirmed in a 2018 order.
He submitted that the state government has appointed an additional district magistrate to deal with the process of notices for recovering damages for loss of public property during protests against the CAA whereas the guidelines laid down by the court stipulated that retired judges should deal with the matter.
The plea has sought a stay on these notices claiming they have been sent to persons who have not been booked under any penal provisions and no details of FIR or any criminal offences have been made out against them.
“The contradiction is that while the Supreme Court in 2009 put the onus of assessment of damages and recovery from the accused on high courts of every state, whereas the Allahabad High Court had issued guidelines in 2010 judgement that let the state government undertake these processes to recover damages, which has serious implications,” said the plea, filed through advocate Nilofar Khan.
“The judicial oversight/judicial security is a sort of safety mechanism against arbitrary action. This means that there is every chance that the ruling party in the state could go after its political opponents or others opposed to it to settle scores,” it said.
It also sought direction from the Uttar Pradesh government to follow the procedure as per the 2009 and 2018 guidelines of the court while claiming damages to recover the losses caused to public property during such protests.
The plea sought setting up of an independent judicial inquiry to probe into the incidents which happened during the protests against the amended citizenship act and the National Register of Citizens in Uttar Pradesh, as has been done by the Karnataka High Court.
It claimed that the BJP-led Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is “moving ahead on the chief minister”s promise of avenging the loss to public property” by seizing assets of protestors to “take revenge for political reasons from one community who is in minority”.
The plea further alleged that around 925 people, who have been arrested so far in connection with the violent protests, may not get bail easily in Uttar Pradesh till they pay up for the losses as they have to be given “conditional bail” only after they deposit the amount.
“The government of Uttar Pradesh and its administration and police are no longer behaving like the arm of a democratic government as it cracked down on protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019/NRC. The police on the instructions of the Uttar Pradesh administration used disproportionate force and denied public accountability,” it alleged.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)