The Uttar Pradesh government was told off by the Supreme Court for trying to recover money for property damage during the 2019 anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests from those identified as protesters. The court said it is giving one final opportunity to the state to withdraw the proceedings or it will quash it for being in violation of the law.
“You have to follow the due process under the law. Please examine this, we are giving one opportunity till February 18,” the court said.
The Uttar Pradesh government has acted like a “complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor” in conducting the proceedings to attach the properties of the accused, said a bench of justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant.
“Withdraw the proceedings or we will quash it for being in violation of the law laid down by this court,” the bench said.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Parwaiz Arif Titu seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged protesters 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 said the notices have been sent in an “arbitrary manner” and cited instances where a notice has been sent to a man who had died six years ago at the age of 94 and also to several others including two people who are aged above 90.
The counsel for the state government, Garima Prashad, said that 106 FIRs were registered against 833 rioters and 274 recovery notices were issued against them.
“Out of the 274 notices, recovery orders were passed in 236 while 38 cases were closed,” said the UP government’s counsel.
The bench said, “The Supreme Court has passed two judgements in 2009 and 2018, which said that judicial officers should be appointed in claim tribunals but instead you appointed Additional District Magistrates (ADM)”.
Justice Surya Kant said, “Madam Prashad, this is just a suggestion. This plea concerns only a set of notices sent in December 2019, in relation to one kind of agitation or protest. You can withdraw them with a stroke of a pen. 236 notices in a big state like UP is not a big thing. If you are not going to listen, then be ready to face the consequences. We will tell you how the Supreme Court judgements need to be followed”.
Justice Chandrachud asked why ADMs were conducting the proceedings when the court had directed that adjudication has to be done by a judicial officer.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s counsel referred to a government order issued in 2011 on the constitution of claim tribunals and said that it was approved by the High Court in its subsequent orders.
She said that the state has notified the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act on August 31, 2020.
Justice Chandrachud said, “We are not concerned with other proceedings. We are concerned with only the notices which have been sent in December 2019, during the CAA protests. You cannot bypass our orders. How can you appoint ADMs, when we had said it should be by judicial officers. Whatever proceedings were conducted in December 2019, was contrary to the law laid down by this court”.
The UP government lawyer said that whatever the court has said will be considered.
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