Anti CAA–NRC Unrests and the Role of U.P. Government in Recovering Loss to Public Property

By Dr. Ahmed Raza

The anti Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) remonstration spread all over India immediately after passing of the law, sparking into few of the states as violent form of protests, killing, damages to property, etc.

The Uttar Pradesh state suffered major losses of life and properties among all other affected states of India. Although, the U.P. government was seen in full action mode against the violence and placed necessary measures to restore law and order before the questions could arise of the failure of the government in controlling the situation.

The media channels aired the UP chief minister’s proclamation for recovering the losses of property from the culprit just hour after violence took place, surprising the nation from pre-matured and hasty actions.

Further, within a couple of days of the incident, the process for recoveries commences at several districts with full details of amounts required to compensate the losses citing the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad High Court in Mohammad Shajauddin vs. State of UP as their justification. The law of the land reminds us the due process of law as mandated to every government before it executes any decision. The UP police acted against the unrest quickly in order to maintain calm in the society.

But their course of actions including arresting, detentions and recoveries process floated aggravation and provocation among the citizens by questioning on the legal, judicial and procedural aspects which are pre-requisite conditions for the police.

Despite the bureaucracy being as professional and apolitical body in the government showed its high level of vitality and haste in pursuing the recoveries process serving notices to the alleged people within a couple of days, criticized of their deficiency in neutrality, professionalism and anonymity.

The uniform law and policy against the property damage recoveries is still awaited despite the Supreme Court order. Though the previous law of 1984 remains prevalent, which need proper amendment as already brought into to the notices by the judiciaries in India. Therefore, the recent incidence in U.P. put the issues afresh leading to argue on its legal and procedural requirements.

The insensitivity and biased attitudes of the police were seen throughout their action. This article shows an outline of the legal and judicial procedures mandated to the police and also points out their restriction towards judicious interventions. The judiciary in India stands an independent body which has been endowed with jurisdiction of delivering justice to the people.

The prime responsibility of the government is to safeguard peace-loving citizens, public and private property from hooligans through rules and regulations. Keeping the large no of incidences of property damages at protests, rallies and political dharna etc since independence, strict and uniform punishment became an hour of the need. Though maintaining law and order is associated with state government, applying a federal formula of the nation is needed.

The laws are supposed to be commanded in uniform way through-out the nation in order to control the unrest and process the recovery of property damages. Hence, post independent India, first time, in 1984, the central law namely ‘Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984’ was enacted by the Parliament on 16th of March 1984. Prior to this act, several states used to administer such criminal offences like damages of property etc under their own created acts. That’s why some sort of variations of their laws was visible.

Defining Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984
Being as first central act, it is applied through-out the nation uniformly dealt with the issues of property damages occurred due to unrest and vandalism. Further, the term “public property” includes whether immovable or movable (including any machinery) owned or possessed by or under the control of the Central Government, State Government, local authority, Corporation or a company. The government’s objectivity towards making provision for deterrent punishment, punishment, fixing accountability to the culprits as well as granting compensation to the concerned people did find utmost importance.

While, this act flawed in many issues, prominently the exclusion of private property damages became a matter of concern over the time. For the last couple of decades, frequent reporting of such incidences triggered the government for a universal law to curb the property damages as well as recovering the damages. Later on, in 2007, the Supreme Court itself took note of instances of mass violence, destruction, property damages across the country. Therefore, two committees under former judge K T Thomas and eminent jurist Fali S Nariman were formed to seek legal changes so as to handle such situations.

Again, the Supreme Court in 2009 assigns responsibilities to the High Courts to assess damages and recovering the damages. Following this guideline, the Allahabad High Court solicited the state government for the recovery of the damages. The recent recoveries process in Uttar Pradesh found its genesis from the Allahabad high court order of 2010. But, there have been a lot of flaws of the policing against the recoveries process which lacks in legal, procedural as well as in empirical validity.

Legal, judicial and procedural Assessment
The legal system in India presumes that the accused person is innocent until the prosecution proves its case. In this process, the FIR should be lodged immediately upon receiving information on unrest, damages etc. After identifying the person or group involved, the concerned authorities may direct to claim the losses occurred during the incident. In this perspective, the public corporations, departments or institutions etc prepare a report of amount so as to recover from the accused, which may be assessed by the ordinary courts.

Before approaching the court, an assessment of losses from the damages has to be forwarded before the claim commissioner who is deployed under district administration. The swift action of U.P. police against the alleged persons involved in protesting against anti-CAA and NRC persuade several questioning on legal and procedural aspect of the recoveries process.

Though a large number of videos and CCTV footages of the incidents are making round on media platforms, a scientific enquiry of the evidences becomes obligatory.

[The author is an Assistant Professor in Department of Public Administration, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. Views expressed are personal.]

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