Image: Naeem Ansari / The Telegraph
After severe criticism from the Supreme Court, the Uttar Pradesh government on February 18, 2022 withdrew its 274 notices against people who had protested the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for recovery of alleged damages to public property prior to the issuance of the related law in 2020, reported LiveLaw.
Last week, an SC Bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant questioned the state government about adjudicating the recovery notices via Additional District Magistrates (ADMs) and not judicial officers, as mandated by the court. It gave the government seven days of time to show how the notices to 2019 protesters “were not in contravention to Supreme Court directions”. The court warned that it will quash the notices itself, if they fail to do so.
On Friday, UP Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad said that the government withdrew the notices on February 14 and February 15 and directed the cases to be overseen by the Tribunals constituted under the Recovery of Damages To Public and Private Property Act 2020. Further, the Bench directed the government to refund any damage recoveries collected under the previous order.
“This will however be without prejudice to such action as may be warranted in terms of the proceedings before and the decision of the Claims Tribunal at a subsequent stage,” said the Bench.
However, Prashad unsuccessfully contested this saying, “Order of refund would send the wrong message.” She said the release of refunds and attachments will be difficult due to the Model Code of Conduct enforced in the state. According to the state government representative, the refund will send a message to the public that “the entire process is illegal and no such recovery can be made,” said LiveLaw.
Still, the Bench called for the refund citing Article 142 and its constitutional duty to enforce judicial orders to keep people from running around.
During earlier proceedings, the court had pulled up the UP government for ignoring its orders, saying, “You have become complainant, you have become adjudicator, and then you are attaching property of the accused.”
The Bench was hearing a plea filed by Parwaiz Arif Titu in January 2020, asking that the notices against alleged anti-CAA protesters be quashed for violating SC’s 2009 and 2018 rulings.
In 2019, protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) broke out in every part of the country. People challenged the discriminatory nature of the amendment that excluded the Muslim community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, the ruling BJP government cracked down hard on these protests. The most brutal was perhaps the state sanctioned actions in UP where police lathi-charged and allegedly even fired at unarmed protesters. As many as 23 people died due to this, and around 350 FIRs were filed against at least 1,05,000 people.
At the time, the government displayed posters and hoardings in state capital Lucknow that illegally named 57 alleged anti-CAA protesters and revealed their addresses, publishing their photographs on hoardings put up in public places! People were accused of violence and asked to pay compensation for “damage to public property” caused in December, 2019. The hoardings also threatened to confiscate people’s property if they failed to pay. The total amount of damage to property listed in the hoardings was up to Rs. 1.55 crore.
According to a recent APCR report on the anti-CAA protests and ensuing violence, people who were illegally arrested and tortured in prison for two years were also given damage notices. Their families paid the money in the police station while they were incarcerated. Following people’s bail the state police refused to return the amount. It is for these people that the SC has demanded a refund.
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