The administration in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district has asked 53 persons to pay Rs 23 lakh collectively as compensation for damage to public property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 20, The Indian Express reported. They had been issued notices after the protests turned violent.
As many as 295 people in the districts of Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, Rampur, Bijnor and Bulandshahr had reportedly received notices in connection with property damage worth at least Rs 1.9 crore in December. Muzaffarnagar is the first to start the process to recover the damages.
Fifty-three of the 57 people who got notices in Muzaffarnagar filed replies, denying they were involved in the violence. The notices were sent on the basis of a police report prepared using CCTV footage and visuals of the incident. Three persons did not submit their replies.
“After hearing the replies of the people against whom the notices were served, an order has now been passed directing Tehsildar (Sadar) to recover damages of Rs 23.41 lakh from 53 people,” Additional District Magistrate Amit Singh told The Indian Express. “They will have to deposit the money collectively. Four persons were given a clean chit because there was no direct evidence against them and one was a minor.”
Most of the damage to public property in the city on December 20 took place at Madani crossing in Civil Lines area, the administration said. One person was killed and several, including policemen, were injured in violence.
Most of those who were issued notices were daily wage labourers and were being harassed by police, their lawyer Munnar Hussain alleged.
The punitive measure taken by the state government came amid allegations of police excess during the clashes that erupted on December 20. At least 18 people were killed during the demonstrations – a large number of them from firearm injuries.
The notices issued by the district administrations were 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.