The Allahabad High Court on Thursday stayed a recovery notice issued by the Uttar Pradesh government to a Kanpur man to seek compensation for damage to public property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 20, IANS reported.
A bench of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Saurabh Shyam Shamshery gave petitioner Mohammad Faizan interim relief in the case and stayed the notice issued by the additional district magistrate. They said the Supreme Court was already examining the legality of such orders.
Faizan’s counsel challenged the recovery notice saying such orders cannot be issued by the additional district magistrate. They said the Supreme Court has unequivocally stated that this order can be issued only by a serving/retired high court judge, or, a retired district judge as “claims commissioner’’.
The order is significant as majority of the other recovery notices issued to protestors across Uttar Pradesh have been issued by local administrative officials.
The court directed the state government to file a counter-affidavit in the case within a month. It added that the case be listed in the week commencing April 20 before the appropriate bench for the next hearing. This is subject to outcome of the proceedings before the Supreme Court.
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. 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.