New Delhi: A district administration in Uttar Pradesh has issued a show-cause notice against poet, politician and former Congress parliament candidate Imran Pratapgarhi for the recovery of Rs 1.04 crore for deploying security during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The Moradabad administration claimed that Pratapgarhi, who was Congress’s unsuccessful candidate for the Lok Sabha, had instigated the women-led protests which have been taking place in Moradabad since January 2019.
The administration filed a police complaint against 20 people and 600 unidentified protestors, including 200 women, for shouting “objectionable slogans”.
“It has been noted that a large group of a particular section has been gathering for protests at Eidgah on your call even when Section 144 is in place. Keeping in mind the law and order situation, one extra platoon of RAF and another company-and-a-half section of PAC has been deployed, which costs Rs 13.42 lakh per day. Therefore, the administration can recover 1.04 crore from you,” said the notice issued by Additional City Magistrate Rajesh Kumar, as quoted by Indian Express.
The newspaper noted that the notice was dated February 6. Pratapgarhi had joined the protests on February 7.
According to Kumar, Pratapgarhi had been sent an notice a day before he joined the protest “under section 111 of CrPC (magistrate order against any person who is likely to commit breach of peace)… asking him to sign a bond (saying) that peace will be maintained”.
He was asked to sign a personal bond of Rs 10 lakh and deposit two sureties of the same amount, undertaking to maintain peace.
The Congress leader had also been asked to appear before the district magistrate on February 12, but did not do so.
“The notice has a reference to the fact that so far, a total expenditure of about Rs 1.04 crore has been spent on police forces deployed at the protest site. There is a warning that this amount can be recovered from him,” said Kumar.
In Hindustan Times, Moradabad district magistrate Rakesh Singh also justified the notice, stating action was being taken against all those who were defying the prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of CrPC. “No permission has been sought from the administration for the demonstration, so it is illegal,” Singh.
According to the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 anyone “who commits mischief by doing any act in respect of any public property” is liable to a jail term of up to five years and a fine or both. Provisions of this law can be coupled with relevant sections of the IPC.
Pratapgarhi claimed that the show-cause notice was issued to gag protestors. “The UP government doesn’t want people to speak against officials. I had not visited Moradabad for a very long time before February 7. There was no law and order problem. This is clear targeting, and police want to shirk responsibility,” he said.
Asserting that he would move court against the notice, Pratagarphi told Express that he did not use any words in which his speech that would disturb law and order.
Meanwhile, the police also claimed that the notice was preventive in nature and did not reflect the actual amount to be recovered. “As per procedure, another order is issued if the individual is found flouting the notice. This is not the same as a recovery notice since no public property was damaged. This acts as a deterrent to prevent a person from possibly causing a law and order situation,” said SP City Moradabad, Amit Kumar Anand.
Police added that notices have been issued 150 other people to prevent a law and order situation arising from the protests.
Last December, administrations of four districts, which witnessed violence during anti-CAA protests, issued notices to over 130 people for recovery up to Rs 50 lakh in damages. The action was initiated after chief minister Yogi Adityanath said that the property of those found guilty of indulging in violence would be seized to compensate damage to public property.