The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for taking action on notices sent by district administrations to recover losses for damage caused to public properties during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December 2019, reported Bar and Bench.
A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that the notices and the action on them were not in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court given in a 2009 verdict. In the ruling, the court had laid down guidelines to assess damages and make recovery when mass destruction of public property takes place during protests, reported Live Law.
“You have become complainant, you have become adjudicator and then you are attaching property of the accused,” the court said on Friday.
The court was hearing a plea filed by a person named Parwaiz Arif Titu seeking quashing of notices sent to the protesters for recovering losses caused to public properties during the anti-CAA protests.
During the hearing, the court noted that the state government in March had passed the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Bill, 2021. The law states that protesters found guilty by claims tribunals of damaging government or private properties will face imprisonment of one year or a fine ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 1 lakh.
The court had earlier observed that in view of the new law on the subject, the notices served cannot be acted upon.
Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad had told to the court that 106 first information reports were registered against 833 protestors and 274 recovery notices sent. Of these notices, recovery orders were passed in 236 while 38 cases were closed. Prashad had also said that the orders were passed by additional district magistrates.
On Friday, Justice Chandrachud asked the state government how it could bypass the Supreme Court verdict.
“Once we said that it has to be a judicial officer [in claims tribunals to assess the damages], how could you have appointed ADMs [additional district magistrates] to adjudicate?” the judge asked. “The guidelines of the court were very, very clear that you will adjudicate on the basis of the machinery stipulated.”
Prashad submitted that the notices were issued on the basis of a Allahabad High Court judgement in 2011. To this, Justice Kant said that the High Court order cannot supersede the Supreme Court’s directions.
“Now, there is no provision in the new law for the transfer of cases which were decided,” Justice Chandrachud said. “And no provision for appeal under the new Act. These poor people, whose properties have been attached, will have no remedy. You have to follow due process of law. Ultimately, there has to be some guarantee of due process also.”
Justice Kant said these 236 recovery claims can be quashed and the Uttar Pradesh government can take action in accordance to the new law.
The bench posted the matter for February 18, giving time to the state government to act according to its observations.