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UP Govt Withdraws Property Seizure Notices to Anti-CAA Protesters After SC Snub

An SC bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant had pulled up the UP government on February 11, stating that the administration acted like a “complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor” while dealing with the anti-CAA protestors.
Yogi Adityanath

Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald

Lucknow: Two years after December 2019 protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in which over 23 people were killed in police action and at least 3,000 people were illegally arrested by Uttar Pradesh police for taking part in protests across Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath-led government on February 14-15 has withdrawn the 274 recovery notices issued to the protesters seeking to recover damages caused to public property. The latest development comes days after the Supreme Court, on February 11, 2022, criticised the order and warned it would quash recovery notices in CAA protests.

However, the Supreme Court has allowed the Uttar Pradesh government to issue fresh notices under the new law passed - Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Bill - which was passed last year. The State government told the court that these cases would now be referred to tribunals constituted under this law.

The apex court also directed the State government to refund any amount recovered from the protesters under the recovery notices issued so far.

While appearing before the Supreme Court, the UP government informed the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant that 274 recovery notices have been withdrawn and initiated proceedings against anti-CAA protestors in 2019 for damages caused to public and private properties.

Earlier, the UP government had issued an order to seize properties of people involved in the December 2019 protests against the CAA.

Additional district magistrates (ADMs) had issued 274 notices to recover damages, including 95 issued to protesters in Lucknow.

An SC bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant had pulled up the UP government, stating that the administration has acted like a “complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor”, adding that “Withdraw the proceedings or we will quash it for being in violation of the law laid down by this court.”

The apex court said the proceedings of the Uttar Pradesh government in regards to the recovery notice to pay damages for the destruction caused to public property during anti-CAA protests in December 2019 were contrary to the law laid down by the top court and cannot be sustained.

The SC made the observation while hearing a plea filed by one Parwaiz Arif Titu seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged protestors for recovering losses caused by damage to public properties during the anti-CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh.

While hearing the matter on February 11, Justice Chandrachud said, "We are not concerned with other proceedings. We are concerned with only the notices sent in December 2019 during the CAA protests. You cannot bypass our orders. How can you appoint ADMs, when we had said it should be by judicial officers. Whatever proceedings were conducted in December 2019 was contrary to the law laid down by this court."

The petitioner contended that the notices were sent " arbitrarily". The plea stated that notices were sent to a 94-year-old person who had died six years ago and several others, including two people aged above 90.

Reacting over the recent move, SR Darapuri, a former IPS officer, who was given a notice, told NewsClick, "The State government has done so under the pressure of Supreme Court. On February 11, the court has said that either you withdraw all the cases against protesters; otherwise, the court will quash it for violating the law. The court has given seven days of deadline to the state government. After the court order, the State government has asked all the district administrations to withdraw all 274 notices. The court also asked the government to refund the money recovered from the alleged protesters," said Darapuri, who was served notice of Rs 64.37 lakh for damage of public property.

Accusing the Yogi Adityanath government of taking unconstitutional actions against people in the state, the former IPS officer further said, "After the Supreme Court observation, it has proved that the ruling government in the state acted out of vengeance. This also proved the Yogi government took action to mute the growing voices against his wrongdoing. I can not forget the moment when tehsildar and other officers handed over me the notice and threatened to seize my property if I fail to pay the said amount," he told NewsClick, adding that he, along with others, will soon file a defamation case against the government and concerned officers for torture seeking compensation.

Mohammed Shoaib, president of the Rihai Manch – an outfit that provides legal help to victims of hate crimes and also those implicated in "false" terror cases who too was given a recovery notice, said, “We welcome Supreme Court’s decision. SC has slapped the unconstitutional behaviour of Uttar Pradesh government and called the act of sending recovery notices to the protesters seeking to recover damages caused to public property as illegal and irrational, and government should be ashamed of it,” said Shoaib, adding that ‘democracy has been murdered’ under the current regime.

Social activist Sameer says that he has no source of income at present. During the agitation, he was present there peacefully, but with the police and the administration's connivance, not only was he tortured but a notice of about Rs 25 lakh was also given. In this campaign, with the help of some social workers and lawyers, he was able to take a stay against this notice, but this decision of the court has once again increased the people's trust in democracy.

The ardour to collect the compensation had become the most visible intimidation tactic of the Yogi Adityanath-led government in its attempt to crush the anti-CAA agitation. The state government had put up hoardings with pictures of dozens of anti-CAA protesters across Lucknow city on March 6, 2020, declaring that they would pay for the damage. Their personal details, including photos, names and addresses, were made public.

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