Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh cabinet on Friday, March 13, passed The Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Properties Ordinance 2020.
Legal experts and civil society have raised questions about the timing of the ordinance arguing that it was passed by the cabinet ministers only to save themselves from further embarrassment in the Supreme Court. Earlier, the apex court had questioned the Government of Uttar Pradesh about which law the government had adhered to for putting up the hoardings with the picture of alleged rioters in the state capital of Lucknow. The matter has now been referred to a larger bench.
The press note provided to the media by the UP government mentions the Supreme Court’s order on writ number 77/2007 “In Re: Destruction of Public and Private Property Vs State of Andhra Pradesh and others” on which this new ordinance is based. However, the Government of Uttar Pradesh violated the judgement by sending notices to the alleged rioters as the power to send notices under this particular judgement lies with the High Court and not with the state government.
Speaking with NewsClick, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) office bearer Madhu Garg said that this ordinance has been brought by the government as a challenge to the public which has been protesting against the controversial citizenship law.
“This chief minister, instead of working with and for the people, is wreaking havoc on the public. It is not the duty of the government to announce anyone as a criminal or name-shame anyone publicly. The government instead of accepting its mistake in the court has passed an ordinance only to fulfill one man’s ego. This ordinance is totally illegal and should be challenged,” she said, adding, “This government does not believe in judiciary or law and is busy doing what it actually wants to do.”
Also read: ‘Their Purpose, However, has been Fulfilled’: Deepak Kabir on Lucknow Anti-CAA Hoardings
Criticising the government’s move further, she added, “The action of the government is clearly giving a message that they will do whatever they want and this is not a democratic action. This is more like giving a license to the people to go and act against those whose picture has appeared on the hoardings.”
Notably, the Yogi Adityanath led government, after the violence on December 19, 2019, has served more than 500 notices to recover the damages caused to the public and private property, out of which 57 notices were served in Lucknow alone.
Even though the government has not made the ordinance copy public, but NewsClick from its highly placed government sources has learned that the government has used the Allahabad High Court’s order in case of Mohammdad Suzauddin vs UP government dated December 2, 2010, and Uttar Pradesh Government Order of January 8, 2011.
Cabinet minister Suresh Khanna clarified in a media interaction that the rules are yet to be framed and posting of pictures like in the present case, along with other details are very likely to be included in the rules under this ordinance.
Veteran journalist Atul Chandra said that this ordinance has been passed in a hurry and only to justify the government’s act of putting up the billboards.
“The intention behind this seems to be revengeful but now the ball is in the court of the Supreme Court as the government, in its press release sent to the journalists, have quoted the order of the Supreme Court. The observations of Allahabad High Court and then Supreme Court were against the action of the UP government so now let us wait and see what the apex court observes,” he said.
He further added that he has not seen any other government in his memory, which has brought such an ordinance only to back their decisions.
Also read: Anti-CAA Protests: Row Over Hoardings in Lucknow Naming Those Accused of ‘Damaging Public Property’
It may be mentioned here that the Uttar Pradesh CM had said that the government will take revenge against those who have indulged in damaging public property post the December 19 violence in UP.
Dr K A Pandey, a law professor at the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia University in Lucknow, told NewsClick that the government has the power to bring in the ordinance but what has made this particular case interesting is the timing. The matter is pending and is soon to be taken up by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court.
“The ordinance can have two aspects that we will have to see on what it is based. But since the copy of ordinance is not available in the public domain so we can speculate that it may be based on the Criminal Liability. But, back dated cases cannot be taken under this and only cases post the passing of law will be liable under this act. The other aspect is Civil Liability which will enable the government to recover the damage caused to public and private property,” he said.
“The arguments of the UP government in Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court were not strong enough and before jumping the guns it should have at least got the assessment of damage done through a survey or any other way,” he added.
Also read: UP: Government in No Hurry To Remove Hoardings After Allahabad HC Order