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Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Passes law to Recover Property Damage From Rioters, Protesters

Kashif Kakvi |
MP will be the third BJP-ruled state after Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to pass such a law. 
Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Passes law to Recover Property Damage From Rioters, Protesters

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI

Bhopal: Few days before the upcoming Winter Session of the Assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Madhya Pradesh (MP) government cleared a law that will penalise those who destroy government and private property during protests, demonstrations, strikes and riots and recover double the amount of damage within 15 days of the order.

The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-headed Cabinet passed the Madhya Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Bill, 2021, on Thursday. The Bill will be tabled in the upcoming five-day Assembly session, starting from December 20, for debate. 

MP will be the third BJP-ruled state after Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Haryana to pass such a law. In the wake of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, protests, UP had passed the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Law, 2021, in March. Haryana passed a similar law just two weeks after UP. Karnataka invoked a 2009 Supreme Court order that permits a High Court (HC) to constitute machinery to investigate losses and award compensation in riots.

The MP Cabinet passed the Bill almost a year after Chouhan announced to frame a law against stone pelters in the backdrop of the Ujjain communal incident. On December 25 last year, a bike rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) to fetch funds for the Ram Temple from the Muslim-dominated Begum Bagh locality amid sloganeering was pelted with stones, triggering a communal clash. Videos showed the residents of Begum Bagh and the BJYM members pelting each other with stones, which damaged public and private property. The incident was followed by stone pelting on similar rallies in Indore and Mandsaur. 

On January 3, Chouhan said that his government would introduce a law to “make the stone pelters pay” while asserting that the rule of law will prevail. 

According to the Bill, the government will recover twice the value of the property damaged during rioters from rioters with the help of a tribunal having the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and its jurisdiction extending across the state. A retired Judge will be appointed commissioner of the tribunal with inspectors general of police and secretary-rank officers looking after complaints and awarding compensation. Damages will be recovered from people responsible for damaging property and those found to have incited such incidents or encouraged others to cause damage. 

After the verdict, the tribunals will issue a certificate to the district collectors to recover pending dues as per the compensation awarded under the provisions of the Revenue Recovery Act, 1980. The new law also gives powers to district collectors, who can complain to the tribunal, to seize and auction movable and immovable assets of those held responsible for causing damage to recover the claims.

In case of damage caused to private property, the owner must complain to the tribunal within 30 days of the incident. Every district will have a claim commissioner who will be either an additional or a deputy collector. The tribunal will conduct an investigation against the accused based on the complaint. Appeals against the verdict can be filed only in the HC within 90 days. If the accused does not pay damages within 15 days of the verdict, his/her property can be seized and auctioned.

Home minister Narottam Mishra told the media that “if anyone destroys government or private property, both movable and immovable, during a protest, strike or riot, damages will be recovered from the accused and paid to the property owner”. If necessary, “property of the accused will be seized and auctioned to recover the money. The government does not object to peaceful demonstrations but does not approve of the destruction of property”, he added.

Rajesh Rajora, additional chief secretary (Home), said, “The Bill has been drafted after taking references from the various verdicts of the Supreme Court and other states. The law has been framed to recover damages caused to public and private property by an individual during protests, rallies and riots.”

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