Khargone: 12-YO Minor, a Retired Cop, 3 'Unknown' Men Served Notices by 'Controversial' Claim Tribunal
Kalu Khan with his wife and two children.
Bhopal: On August 31, 2022, a group of police personnel came knocking on the door of retired police officer Nasir Khan (63) in Tadvi Mohalla of Madhya Pradesh's Khargone city. Khan hid inside the house assuming the police came to arrest him as his name was dragged in one of the First Information Reports (FIRs) lodged in the aftermath of the Khargone April 10 riot.
His son Mohammad Ahmad, with diffidence, attended to the cops. They gave him a recovery notice of the Claims Tribunal Court addressing his father for recovery of Rs 1.16 lakh. Khan was accused of pelting stones at the home of next-street neighbour Peeyush Vasare which allegedly damaged his tin-shed roof on the night of April 10. "Wakeel ke madad se iska jawab bana kar, diye gai date per Court me jama kar dena,"(submit a response to this on the said date in the court with the help of a lawyer), the police personnel told his son.
Ironically, Khan’s house in Tadvi mohalla was bombarded with petrol bombs and stones allegedly within hours after the clash broke out in Talab Chowk locality on April 10. He claimed he had a close shave as rioters were breaking the main door of his house after setting the kitchen and four bikes parked inside his compound on fire. A police patrolling team saved him at the last moment.
Two days later, Khan was booked under seven Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including rioting, on a complaint by Vasare. But, his two-page police complaint, submitted at Kotwali police station within four hours after the attack to lodge an FIR, was registered on April 15.
"Almost two months later, when police did not arrest the accused he named in the FIR as they were openly threatening dire consequences, he sought police 'action' and approached senior police officials. On the contrary, police came to arrest him in a case lodged by Vasare," Khan’s relative told NewsClick over the phone. "Now, the retired cop is on the run at such an old age," he added.
On June 30, Khan, in a written complaint to Khargone Police, said he was framed in a false case as he was helping the cops to control the situation and later got injured when rioters attacked his home.
Nasir and his elder brother Bahseer at showing the petrol bombs thrown at his house
After assessing the losses, the state government paid Rs 80,000 to the four family members of Khan. He has also filed a recovery suit of around Rs 2 lakh in the claim court.
Therafter, Khan received the notice almost five months after a communal clash broke out in Khargone city on April 10 during a Ram Navami procession, killing one Ibrish Khan (31). Dozens of homes, shops and automobiles were gutted in the violence.
Within 48 hours of the communal violence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Madhya Pradesh government set up the first claims tribunal appointing a retired district judge Shivkumar Mishra and former state government secretary Prabhat Parashar as jury. They were tasked to hear the cases of the tribunal court which was set up under the provisions of the Public and Private Property Recovery Act 2021. The Act was passed in December 2021 without any debate.
The Act empowers a two-member committee to recover damages of any public and private property, caused during a communal riot or any kind of violence from an individual or a group, within three months of the stipulated time.
The court received a total of 343 cases and shortlisted 34 cases for hearing. On October 14, the tribunal delivered the verdict in six cases while the remaining cases are sub judice at various levels. In six cases, the tribunal ordered the recovery of Rs 7.46 lakh from 50 people accused of arson and destruction of property.
Since its inception, the Property Recovery Act and its claims court, are in the centre of a controversy owing to questions over its legal validity.
The Indore High Court has already sent a notice to the state government in a petition challenging the validity of the claims court. The petition, which was filed by a Khargone resident, Farida Bi (45), sought to declare the recovery Act and tribunal as “ultra vires to the Constitution” as it is against the principles of natural justice and fundamental rights prescribed in the Constitution of India.
Like Khan, a 12-year-old boy and his father Kalu Khan, a resident of Anand Nagar of Khargone city, received two separate recovery notices of Rs 7. 7 lakh in the last week of August. While Kalu was given a recovery notice of Rs 4.80 lakh, his son was slapped with a recovery notice of Rs 2.90 lakh. He was given notice after his neighbour lodged a complaint at the tribunal about alleged damages they had suffered during the clashes.
In a short video, Kalu Khan, a driver, said: "Neitherare we involved in the April 10 violence nor has any FIR been lodged against us in the Kotwali police station. Yet, the tribunal has sent two recovery notices."
Notice given to Nasir Khan
He said: “We were seated for Iftar at home when the clash broke out. We heard about the massive violence, but we remained confined to our home.”
The family’s neighbour Suraj Gangle, in his complaint filed with the tribunal, alleged that the two robbed and vandalised his home during the violence on April 10. The court has sent notices to six others in the same case.
The family has moved a plea before the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh high court on September 3 for the notices to be withdrawn. Nonetheless, the court dismissed it on September 12 on grounds that any such request should be filed with the tribunal.
"We have never seen Rs 1 lakh in our lives. We belong to a marginalised class and are somehow making ends meet, how can we pay it?" lamented his mother, Ranu. Her son is in constant fear that the police may arrest him.
Advocate Sajid Pathan, who represented Kalu and his 12-year-old son, told NewsClick: “On the one hand, the tribunal issued notices to Kalu and his 12-year old son who had nothing to do with the riots and nor does their name crop up in any police complaint. On the other, over 200 people are languishing in jail, and have been served recovery notices. They were not allowed to present their side as our application to the tribunal to attend court proceedings either through a video conference or physical presence was instantly dismissed.
Pathan said during cross-questioning the witnesses, the tribunal judges constantly keep on intervening, and the whole cross-questioning seemed futile.
Advocate Sudheer Kulkarni, who defended the case of Shailendra Singh and 15 others in a case filed by Mukhtiyar Khan (44), alleged that the court is neither following the laws of criminal justice nor the Evidence Act.
“The court admitted those cases which had no legal backing. It entertained those applicants who have neither lodged an FIR of their losses nor their names in the government survey that took place after the riot," he told NewsClick.
Kulkarni said: “Without checking the authenticity of the photos, and videos presented by the complaint, the court is delivering a verdict merely on the statements of the victims. Besides, many of the complainants who have already received government compensation are not subtracted from the final compensation issued by the court in the order.”
In one case, the court issued notices to three people -- Kali, Ganesh and Akku-- who don't exist. When local police pointed it out, their names were omitted from the proceedings, he added.
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