SC asks UP govt to withdraw recovery notices against anti-CAA protesters

During the hearing, the bench observed that the UP government has acted like a \'complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor\' by itself

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to withdraw the recovery notices issued to the alleged anti-CAA protesters in December 2019 while observing that the proceedings were contrary to the law laid down by it.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant gave the final opportunity to the State to withdraw the recovery notices saying otherwise it will quash the proceedings for being in violation of the law.

"Withdraw the proceedings or we will quash it for being in violation of the law laid down by this court," the bench told the counsel appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government.

During the hearing, the bench observed that the Uttar Pradesh government has acted like a "complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor" by itself in conducting the proceedings to attach the properties of the accused.

The apex court was hearing a plea seeking quashing of the recovery notices issued by the Uttar Pradesh administration to recover the damage caused to public properties in connection with protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in the state.

The petition was filed by advocate Parvez Arif Titu who sought direction for setting up an independent judicial enquiry to probe into the incidents that occurred during the protests against the CAA-NRC in Uttar Pradesh.

Appearing for Uttar Pradesh, Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad apprised the top court that 106 FIRs were registered against 833 rioters in the State and 274 recovery notices were issued against them.

She added that out of the 274 notices, recovery orders were passed in 236 while 38 cases were closed. Prashad had also revealed that these orders were passed by Additional District Magistrates. She also said that under the new law notified in 2020, claim tribunals have been constituted which is being headed by retired district judges, and earlier it was headed by Additional District Magistrates (ADMs).

To this, the bench said that the Supreme Court has passed two judgements in 2009 and 2018, which said that judicial officers should be appointed in claim tribunals but instead State appointed ADMs.

Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government had told the apex court that property damage claims tribunals have been set up to adjudicate the claims of private individuals and government authorities for compensation for the destruction of property during anti-CAA protests and riots in the state.

The tribunals were constituted under the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Law, 2020.

Last year, the apex court had asked the State government not to take action on earlier notices sent to the alleged protestors by the district administration for recovering losses caused by damage to public property during the anti-CAA agitations in the state.

The plea stated that the Uttar Pradesh government has appointed an additional district magistrate to deal with the process of notices for recovering damages for loss of public property during protests against the CAA whereas the guidelines laid down by the top court stipulated that retired judges should deal with the matter.

The petition further submitted that notices have been sent in Uttar Pradesh in an "arbitrary manner" against a person, who had died six years ago at the age of 94. The notices were issued to two others who are aged above 90, the plea claimed.

Seeking a stay on notices, the petition stated that notices have been sent to persons who have not been booked under any penal provisions and no details of FIR or any criminal offences have been made out against them.

It was contended that recovery notices were based on an Allahabad High Court judgement passed in 2010 which is in "violation of the guidelines" passed by the Supreme Court in a 2009 judgment which was later re-affirmed in a 2018 verdict.

The plea, filed through advocate Nilofar Khan, stated, "The contradiction is that while the Supreme Court in 2009 put the onus of assessment of damages and recovery from the accused on High Courts of every state, whereas the Allahabad High Court had issued guidelines in 2010 judgement that let the state government to undertake these processes to recover damages, which has serious implications".

The petition also sought direction from the Uttar Pradesh government to follow the procedure as per the 2009 and 2018 guidelines of the top court while claiming damages to recover the losses caused to public property during such protests.

925 persons, who have been arrested so far in connection with the violent protests, may not get bail easily in Uttar Pradesh till they pay up for the losses as they have to be given conditional bail only after they deposit the amount, the petitioner had added.

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