Embroiled in anti- Citizenship Amendment Act protests, the Supreme Court on Friday sought response of the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged protesters by the district administration for recovering losses caused by damage to public properties during anti-CAA agitations in the state. A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph issued notice to the state government and directed it to file its response within four weeks.
The top court was hearing a plea which alleged 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, and also to two others who are aged above 90. Advocate Parwaiz Arif Titu, a petitioner in the case, has sought stay on these notices claiming they have been sent to persons who have not been booked under any penal provisions and no details of FIR or any criminal offenses have been made out against them.
The plea, filed through advocate Nilofar Khan, has said that notices were based on an Allahabad High Court verdict delivered in 2010 which “is in violation of the guidelines” passed by the top court in a 2009 judgment which was later re-affirmed in a 2018 verdict. “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 judgment that let the state government undertake these processes to recover damages, which has serious implications.
“The judicial oversight/judicial security is a sort of safety mechanism against arbitrary action. This means that there is every chance that the ruling party in the state could go after its political opponents or others opposed to it to settle scores,” it has said.
It has also sought a direction to the Uttar Pradesh government to follow the procedure as per the 2009 and 2018 guidelines of the apex court while claiming damages to recover the losses caused to public property during such protests.
The plea has sought setting up of an independent judicial inquiry to probe into the incidents which happened during the protests against the amended citizenship act and the National Register of Citizens in Uttar Pradesh, as has been done by the Karnataka High Court.
The plea has claimed that the BJP-led Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is “moving ahead on the chief minister’s promise of avenging the loss to public property” by seizing assets of protestors in order to “take revenge for political reasons from one community who is in minority”.
It further alleged that around 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 plea has claimed that even before any demonstrations, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh had declared that there was no reason for anyone to protest against the CAA and on December 19, 2019, when the protestors and policemen first clashed in Lucknow, “he angrily denounced the protestors” and said he would take “revenge”.
“The government of Uttar Pradesh and its administration and police are no longer behaving like the arm of a democratic government as it cracked down on protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019/NRC. The police on the instructions of the Uttar Pradesh administration used disproportionate force and denied public accountability,” it alleged.
The plea, while giving details of instances in the state during the anti-CAA protests, claimed there is “no rule of law” in Uttar Pradesh and there is “complete violation” of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution in order to crack down the protests against CAA and NRC.