Two days after it came to light that Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district administration has asked 28 people to explain why they should not pay for damage worth Rs 14.86 lakh caused during anti-Citizenship Act protests, Hindustan Times reported that such notices had also been sent to people in six other districts.
According to senior officials, 295 people in the districts of Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, Rampur, Bijnor and Bulandshahr have received notices in connection with property damage worth at least Rs 1.9 crore. On December 19, Chief Minister Adityanath had said that there was no place for violence in a democracy. “There was violence in Lucknow and Sambhal and we will deal with it strictly,” he said. “All property of those involved in damaging public assets will be seized and auctioned to compensate for the losses.”
Sambhal district’s Additional District Magistrate Kamlesh Awasthi told PTI that the notices had been sent to 26 people involved in the protests. Till now, the police have arrested 48 people and identified 55 for their alleged involvement in violence protests. The police have put out a series of reward posters and videos across the state to identify suspected protestors. The police in Sambhal have released posters of 150 such people.
The highest claim of damages – Rs 56.7 lakh – was reported from Muzaffarnagar district, but Additional District Magistrate Amit Singh told Hindustan Times that the claims assessment process would go on till December 30.
At least 100 people in Lucknow district received the notices. “Assessment is on,” said Additional District Magistrate Vishwa Bhushan Mishra. “So far police have submitted their damage report worth Rs 26 lakh while other departments are yet to furnish the report.”
In Kanpur, 15 people were asked to explain why they should not pay for damage worth Rs 10.97 lakh, said Superintendent of Police Anant Deo Tiwari. Fifty people were served the notices in Muzaffarnagar, according to District Magistrate Selva Kumari J. “The assessment process is yet not over,” she added. “The assessment as well as process of identification of people is on.”
Show-cause notices were issued to 43 people in Bijnor district for damage worth Rs 19.70 lakh, while the Bulandshahr district administration is looking to recover Rs 6 lakh from suspected protestors. In Meerut, 12 notices were issued while 33 were issued in Gorakhpur.
Districts such as Varanasi, Agra, Gorakhpur, Aligarh, and Hapur are still carrying out assessments and may send the notices to more than 200 people on Thursday, reported Hindustan Times. “We are assessing the losses and most likely notices will be issued to over 100 people in a day or two,” said Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma. “We are also including cost of one day salary of each personnel of the force deployed to maintain law and order.”
This punitive measure taken by the state government comes amid allegations of police excess during the clashes that erupted last week. At least 18 people were killed during the demonstrations – a large number of them from firearm injuries. A media report on Wednesday said the police in Bijnor had detained at least five minors last week, and tortured them for 48 hours.
The notices being issued by the district administrations are based on a 2010 order passed by the Allahabad High Court in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in 2009 on dealing with public property damage during mass violence. While the Supreme Court put the onus of assessment of damages and recovery from accused on High Courts, the Allahabad High Court issued guidelines that let the state government undertake these processes. The High Court, as a result, did away with judicial oversight of the process. This opened up the possibility of arbitrary action by the government.
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