Taking serious note of destruction of public and private property in the name of agitations and bandhs, the Supreme Court (SC) on April 16, 2009, laid down guidelines for the police to take preventive and punitive action. The guidelines also said how responsibility could be fixed for damage, its assessment and recovery from those responsible for the violence.
Guidelines for police
As soon as a demonstration is organised, the police should ensure that it is peaceful; an undertaking should be taken from the organiser to that effect. The incident should be videographed in case the protest turns violent. The state should prepare a report and file a petition before the high court or SC for taking suo motu action.
Recovery of damages
The basic principle for measure of damage of property is that there should be ‘restituto in interregnum’, which means “making whole”. A claims commission should be set up by the high court in consultation with the state. The commission should invite affected persons, assess damage caused and fix liability for recovery. An acting or retired judge of the high court or district court should head the commission, which shall make recommendations to the high court for a final decision.
The SC also accepted the recommendations of the K.T. Thomas Committee, which suggested an amendment in the Prevention of Destruction to Public Properties Act (1984) to make liable the leaders of the organisation that calls for direct action.