Uttar Pradesh accused begin paying damages
Some of the alleged anti-CAA protesters served with compensation-recovery notices by the Uttar Pradesh government have begun paying up, with one of them saying they knew the notices lacked legal endorsement but feared further harassment if they held out.
Yogi Adityanath’s administration has issued recovery notices to more than 1,000 people across the state — without waiting for a court order — seeking compensation for damage to public and private property during the protests against the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December.
On Tuesday, six residents of Kanpur city’s Bekanganj locality deposited Rs 80,856 — the sum of the individual amounts sought from them — with the city civil court magistrate.
The average comes to Rs 13,476 per head among the six -— Dilshad, Liyaquat, Irfan, Arman, Yasin and Gurgut — most of them small-time shopkeepers.
The recovery notices had said the properties of the accused would be confiscated to realise the damages if they didn’t pay up. Most of the accused across the state had been arrested and granted bail before the notices were served on them.
“We understand very well that in an ideal situation, the government cannot confiscate our properties on the basis of a half-baked police report and without proving our guilt in a criminal court,” one of the six men told reporters, requesting anonymity.
“But the way the state government seems prepared to harass us makes it clear that we would be stripped of everything by the time a court clears us of all allegations.”
A senior Supreme Court lawyer, K.V. Dhananjay, had told The Telegraph: “The well-established principle of criminal law is that unless and until a person is convicted after trial on a charge of destruction of public property, it would not be permissible to impose upon him the monetary penalty for destruction of that public property.”
Several more in Kanpur city are preparing to pay up, residents said.
A city magistrate had issued notices to 21 people in Kanpur last month seeking damages amounting to Rs 2.8 lakh — at an average of Rs 13,333 per head — against the loss of properties caused allegedly during the protests of December 20 and 21.
The city had witnessed large-scale violence during protester-police clashes in the Yatimkhana and Babupurva areas. Over 300 people were booked, with the police later zeroing on 21 of them as those who burnt and vandalised public and private property.
On March 6, the Adityanath government also put up 100 roadside hoardings in Lucknow carrying the photos, names and addresses of 53 residents and seeking damages from them for property destruction during the protests of December 19.
The total compensation imposed on them is Rs 1.55 crore, which comes to nearly Rs 3 lakh per head.
Before the hoardings were erected, many among the 53 had secured from Allahabad High Court a stay on their further arrest or any recovery of damages from them.
Last week, the high court asked the state government to take the billboards down before March 16 as no law mandates the naming and shaming of citizens.
With the state government challenging the order in the Supreme Court, which is yet to rule on the matter, the high court has extended the deadline to remove the hoardings till April 10.
On March 15, the state government promulgated an ordinance that provides for such naming and shaming and mandates the formation of tribunals headed by retired judges to identify arsonists and vandals and decide the damages to be sought from them.