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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday drew flak from the Supreme Court for acting on the recovery notices issued to the alleged anti-CAA protesters in December 2019 and gave one final opportunity to it to withdraw the proceedings and warned that 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 comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said.
The top court said that the proceedings initiated in December 2019 were contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court and cannot be sustained.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said 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 top court was hearing a plea filed by one Parwaiz Arif Titu, seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged protesters by the district administration for recovering losses caused by damage to public properties during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) agitations in Uttar Pradesh and asked the state to respond to it.
The plea has alleged that such notices have been sent in an “arbitrary manner” against a person, who had died six years ago at the age of 94 and also to several others including two people who are aged above 90.
Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad, appearing for the UP government, said that 106 FIRs were registered against 833 rioters in the State and 274 recovery notices were issued against them.
Out of the 274 notices, recovery orders were passed in 236 while 38 cases were closed , she said, adding 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).
The bench said, “The Supreme Court has passed two judgments in 2009 and 2018, which said that judicial officers should be appointed in claim tribunals but instead you appointed ADMs.”
Prashad said that during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, 451 policemen were injured and parallel criminal proceedings and recovery proceedings were conducted.
The court gave the state government one more opportunity to withdraw proceedings till February 18, adding that Supreme Court judgments are to be followed.
Justice Chandrachud 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, was contrary to the law laid down by this court.”
On July 9, last year, the top court had asked the UP government not to take action on earlier notices sent to the alleged protesters by the district administration for recovering losses caused by damage to public property during the anti-CAA agitations in the state.
The Yogi Adityanath government had threatened to recover alleged losses from property damage from those it had identified as culpable protesters in late 2019, during the thick of the anti-CAA protests that also saw heavy police action against agitators. The Wire had then reported how the move did not stand to legal scrutiny.
By the end of December 2019, administrations of four districts issued notices to over 130 people accused of rioting to pay up around Rs 50 lakh in damages.
Then, the Uttar Pradesh assembly in March 2021 passed a Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Bill, 2021. Under the law, protesters found guilty of damaging government or private properties will face imprisonment of one year or a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
(With inputs from PTI)