Property damage: UP recovery orders linked to HC ruling
District administrations in Uttar Pradesh initiating proceedings to recover damages from those who allegedly destroyed public property during protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that claimed 18 lives on December 20 are relying on a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment.
The state has so far taken 5,400 people in custody and around 705 have been sent to jail. The Allahabad High Court judgment laid down guidelines for the government to recover damages in case protests turn violent and protestors destroy public property.
In its ruling of December 2, 2010 the HC bench headed by Justice Sudhir Agarwal outlined the stringent measures after noting the state had failed to implement the provisions of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property, enacted in 1984 – a penal provision to punish those who damage public property. The judge observed that the law had remained on paper with the state registering only 585 cases under it between 1984 and 2009.
“Parliament’s enactment came 26 years back but despite repeated and frequent activities almost every second we read in media, only 585 prosecutions have been launched and merely 11 have been decided, meaning thereby it comes to half a case per year. Further in the past 26 years, 8 convictions have taken place,” noted the judge. The court was hearing a petition filed by a police officer who challenged his transfer from Gorakhpur to Badaun. The officer claimed he was suspended and transferred after he arrested a politician, resulting in violent protests by the politician’s supporters.
As per the court’s direction, upon receiving information on violent protests the police must register an FIR immediately. After identifying the person or group the local body, public corporation, whoever is the owner of the property, shall file a claim for realisation of such amount from the political parties/persons before the competent authority, as nominated by the state.
“It will be open to any person in the area where such public property is damaged to approach the Competent Authority, as nominated above, for assessment of loss of the public property and realization from the person concerned in case no such action, as directed above, is taken by the authorities. Such application shall be attended by the Competent Authority as if filed by the authority whose public property is damaged but the amount of money, if any, awarded and realized from the responsible persons, shall be furnished to the concerned Department/ Authorities to which the lost/damaged public property belong,” the court had said, giving liberty to the authority to decide the claim within 30 days.
“In case it is found that persons, against whom such claim is filed, were responsible for the said loss, the amount assessed and awarded by such Competent Authority shall be realised, if not paid by the person responsible within such time as directed by such authority, as arrears of land revenue. A certificate to this effect shall be issued and sent by the Competent Authority to the concerned District Magistrate,” the court had ordered.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan who, in 2007 assisted the Supreme Court when it heard cases related to Jat agitation said the SC order on preventive measures does not include instructions on how authorities should recover damages. “Arguments were advanced on how it can be done but the court did not venture into the issue because there was no law to deal with the same.”