New Delhi: In its latest move seeking damages to public and government property, the Uttar Pradesh government has asked 28 people, including Congress member Sadaf Jafar, retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri and activist Mohammad Shoaib, to pay more than Rs 63 lakh. The administration claims that damage was done to public and government properties during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests at Parivartan crossing in the Hazratganj area of Lucknow on December 19, 2019.
According to the Indian Express, Lucknow additional district magistrate (east) K.P. Singh on Monday issued an order for the recovery of the amount within 30 days. If they fail to pay up, the administration will initiate legal procedures to attach their properties, the order says.
On December 19, Shoaib and Darapuri were put under house arrest ahead of a scheduled demonstration against the controversial law. They described the recovery order as “baseless”. Meanwhile, Sadaf Jafar and other activists had said there was “no evidence” linking them to the violence or destruction of property.
The police filed an FIR against 46 people, including Darapuri, Shoaib, Jafar and Deepak Kabir, for the violence. All were arrested and jailed on December 20. Jafar has claimed that she was tortured while in custody. They were later released on bail. In the case against Jafar and Darapuri, the police reportedly did not provide any evidence to support their claim that the activists were responsible for the violence.
The Lucknow district administration has said that it has sent the recovery notices based on a report sent by the police. “Under the new commissionerate system, the police have magisterial power so they have been asked to ensure that recovery is done from the accused,” said ADM Singh told the Indian Express.
Both Shoaib and Darapuri have replied to the notice, saying they were under house arrest during the violence and could not have been responsible for the destruction of property. Jafar told IE that she will approach the court.
Many legal experts that The Wire has spoken to have said that the UP government’s move to attach property is illegal. Senior Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Hegde said that “confiscation of property is normally after a criminal trial”. He described the action as “legally suspect” and that it would be subject to further legal challenges. He added, “Normally provisions for forfeiture of property are only after the end of a criminal trial. So there cannot be any ipso facto confiscation”.
C.U. Singh, another senior advocate, termed the action blatantly illegal. “This is grossly unconstitutional and illegal because it is not supported by any law and it results in pre-judging people without even the benefit of a fair trial,” he said.
“It is particularly pernicious in this case because there is a serious allegation that a lot of the violence was instigated by third parties and by the police themselves. In fact, it was also alleged that it was perpetrated by the police themselves,” he said.
CCTV footage and videos posted on social media showed police breaking cameras and damaging vehicles in many parts of the state.
The police in UP has been accused of using excessive force against those protesting the CAA, particularly Muslims. In the state, 22 people were killed during the protests, most in police firing. A fact-finding report concluded that the Uttar Pradesh police used ‘extreme torture’, including physical violence and sleep deprivation on anti-CAA protestors. It is also accused of detaining minors and torturing them in custody in Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar and Firozabad. The minors did not receive any legal assistance, the report says.