Supreme Court takes UP gov’t to task over notices issued to anti-CAA protesters

“Follow due process under the law.. we are giving opportunity till February 18,” SC sets deadline for UP Gov't to explain its actions, else SC will quash notices

anti-CAA protesters

Uttar Pradesh government has barely one week to show the Supreme Court how Additional District Magistrates (ADMs) supervise recovery issued to people who had protested the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) “prior to the legislation” and show “that notices issued before the Act were not in contravention to Supreme Court directions”. The Apex court has pulled up Uttar Pradesh government and warned it will quash notices itself.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that they are taking note that Additional District Magistrates (ADMs) and not judicial officers, as mandated by the apex court, had adjudicated recovery notices to pay damages for destruction caused to public property during protests in December 2019, even before the Act came into force on January 10, 2020. The SC said that they were in contravention of guidelines laid down by the court.    

Justice Surya Kant reportedly told UP Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad, “You have become complainant, you have become adjudicator, and then you are attaching property of the accused.” Justice Chandrachud reportedly asked, “When we had directed that adjudication has to be done by a judicial officer, how is ADM conducting proceedings?”

The court was referring to its 2009 ruling that the Claims Commissioner, who will estimate damages in such cases and investigate liability, will be a judge, reported Indian Express. This had been reiterated by the court in a decision in 2018. Now the court has asked that UP will have to show “how did ADMs supervise these notices prior to the legislation?” The court further reportedly said, “You have to show that notices issued before the Act were not in contravention to Supreme Court directions,” adding, “We will quash these notices and then you are at liberty to take action as per the new Act. Proceedings, which are pending, will be under the new law. You tell us next Friday what you want to do and we will close this matter for orders. You have to follow the due process under the law. Please examine this, we are giving one opportunity till February 18.” 

According to the news report, Justice Surya Kant reportedly said, “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 Supreme Court judgments need to be followed.” 

The plea that the court was hearing had been filed by Parwaiz Arif Titu, in January 2020, seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged anti-CAA protesters by district administrations for recovering losses caused by damage to public property during the protests. It  contended that the notice was in violation of the Supreme Court’s 2009 and 2018 rulings, stated the news report.

However, UP Additional Advocate General Prashad cited a 2011 Government Order regarding the setting up of Claim Tribunals. The SC bench pointed out that the Allahabad High Court had disapproved this in 2011 following which the state had promised to bring in a law and took eight to nine years to do so.

According to IE, Prashad told the bench that the state had come up with the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act in 2021, which had a clause that saves earlier decisions, and all cases have been sent to tribunals constituted under it, and that these were headed by retired District Judges. Prashad added that “proceedings against rioters have been happening since 2011 and that if the court sets aside the notices, all those adjudicated will also seek relief.”

However, Justice Chandrachud reportedly 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 were contrary to the law laid down by this court.”

What had the UP government done to anti-CAA protesters? 

Former Inspector General of Uttar Police S R Darapuri and Congress leader Sadaf Jafar, were among 46 people who were each issued recovery orders with the same amount — Rs 64.37 lakh —  from the ADM (Lucknow East). Both had denied that they were present at the site of the protests. Jafar, who is contesting the UP polls from Lucknow (Central), called the notices “illegal and unconstitutional” and Darapuri was quoted by IE as saying that the “procedure followed by the UP government to serve notices to us was against the apex court guidelines. I am glad the court has established the rule of law, and I am hoping that it will soon quash the proceedings on its own when the matter is heard next.” After retirement, Darapuri dedicated himself to speaking up on issues regarding Dalits, Adivasis and minorities. He was 76 years old when he was arrested on December 20, 2019, after he called for a political but non-violent protest against CAA. He was released on bail in January 2020. 

Jafar was also arrested and after she was released on bail in January, she publicly alleged that she was “tortured in police custody and called a Pakistani” when she was in jail. “Women police officers dragged me by my hand to the corner of the street and started beating me with a baton on my legs,” she recalled and also that they had kept saying, “Oh she’s Muslim.” 

Since the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 was introduced and passed in Parliament, and threats of the implementation of an all-India Nation Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) repeatedly made, spontaneous protests broke out across the country. A unified resistance built up against these discriminatory legislative and policy moves and demonstrations and peaceful sit-down protests were held with the tricolour, the Constitution, songs, poems and the ideals of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar as its symbols. 

The government and administration also displayed posters and hoardings throughout the state capital of Lucknow of alleged anti-CAA protesters in a crude and illegal way of ‘naming’ and shaming them. As many as 57 persons were named and with their addresses and photographs put up on posters and hoardings. They were accused of being part of the violence during the protests. The alleged protestors were also arbitrarily asked to pay huge sums compensation for “damage to public property” that took place during the violence at the protest in December, 2019. The hoardings also said that if these people fail to pay up, their properties will be attached/confiscated. The total amount of damage to property listed in the hoardings was up to Rs. 1.55 crore. 

Before putting up these posters, the UP Chief Minister had declared that properties of those involved in the violence would be seized and auctioned to compensate for destruction of public and private assets during the protests over the amended citizenship law and issued three recovery orders for the same. 


Inquiry into rights violations by UP police during 2019 anti-CAA protests: NHRC
Anti CAA protests: Allahabad court protects two accused of sedition from arrest 



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