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HC Notice to MP Govt on Petition Challenging Property Recovery Act

Kashif Kakvi |
In the petition, the woman Farida Bi (45) also pleaded to abolish the 'Claims Tribunal' formed after the Khargone riot to recover the losses from individuals as it will be used for political vendetta and deprive the accused of their properties.
MP Indore HC.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: freepressjournal

Bhopal: A petition challenging the newly formed 'Claims Tribunal' set up by the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government in the fallout of Khargone violence to recover the loss of public and private properties during the riot, has been admitted by the Indore High Court.

Hearing the petition of Farida Bi (45), a resident of Khargone, a two-judge bench of Justices Vivek Rusia and Amarnath Kesharwani issued notice to the State government on Tuesday.

The petition sought to declare the newly passed Madhya Pradesh Prevention and Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2021, under which the tribunal was formed in Khargone, as “ultra vires to the Constitution” as it was against the principle of natural justice and fundamental rights prescribed in the Constitution of India.

The act empowers a two-member committee to recover damages of any property due to communal riot, hartal, bandh, demonstration, procession, blockade of traffic, or any such assembly known by any name and such act is committed by an individual or a group of individuals who were part of the said assembly within three months from the date of notification.

Within four days of the Khargone riot, on April 13, invoking section 4 of the newly passed Recovery Law, the State government formed a claims tribunal appointing retired district judge Shivkumar Mishra and former state government secretary Prabhat Parashar to recover the damages and losses of Khargone riot from private individuals who are accused of arson or stone pelting or any kind of damages.

According to the Khargone's Claims Court, close to 200 claims have been filed in the tribunal from members of both communities and over 80 claims are being heard.

The next hearing on the petition is expected to take place on October 11.

The petitioner woman, while challenging the Act, sought that it be declared unconstitutional and pointed out that it was framed out of political vendetta and revenge which will be used to file arbitrary cases on people to deprive them of their properties.

The petition states that "Even though a person is named in a FIR it does not create a sole ground of conviction unless and until the trial is completed and the judgment is passed by the trial court. If any adverse order is being passed by the claims tribunal against the accused then certainly it will create a negative impact on the judgment as the person has already been declared as a stone pelter or a rioter without the conclusion of the trial.

The petition outlines that, "There is no clarity with respect to the conviction or release in either scenario of the civil or criminal proceedings reaching a conclusion."

During the arguments, the state government's counsel claimed that there was no solid ground in the petition against the special law and that it should be dismissed.

The petitioner's lawyer Ashar Warsi told NewsClick that the woman's husband Firoz Khan alias Saizu was arrested for his alleged involvement in the riots that occurred on April 10, on the occasion of Ramnavmi in Khargone town.

"The petitioner fears that the special law will be used against her family in a wrongful manner and as an interim relief, she had appealed to the high court that the claims tribunal constituted under the law and all its actions be stayed till the disposal of the plea," he added.

The petition also outlines, "The process of identification, selection and designation of individuals or groups for attaching liability is nowhere explicitly mentioned in this instant legislation which leaves it wide open for gross misuse as has been done by the Respondents in this situation. The process can lead to arbitrary action of the legislation which can lead to injustice to any person."

The petition also stated, "The soul of the act is by default a tarnished one and factually against the constitution of India and the provision enshrined within it."

Taking a cue from Uttar Pradesh's Compensation for Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2020, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan mooted to formulate an act to recover damages from rioters and stone pelters. CM announced on December 29, 2020, in the fallout of Ujjain violence which took place during Ram Temple fund collection rally carried out by Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha workers from Muslim dominated Begam Bagh locality.

UP's act which was enacted to recover losses of public and private properties allegedly damaged during the anti-CAA protests was later termed arbitrary by the Allahabad High Court.

A day after Chouhan's announcements, Home Minister Narottam Mishra speaking over the Ujjain violence said, "Jis ghar se pathar aaenge, wahi ghar se pathar nikale jaenge (Stones will be recovered from those who pelt them)."

On December 16, 2021, the Assembly passed Madhya Pradesh Prevention and Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Act with voice vote and it came into effect on January 4, 2022.

With PTI inputs.

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