Railway Board chairperson Vinod Kumar Yadav on Monday said the railways had suffered property damage worth Rs 80 crore during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests and that the money would be recovered from those found involved in arson and violence.
He said Eastern Railway had suffered the maximum damage, worth Rs 70 crore, while Northeast Frontier Railway’s bill was Rs 10 crore.
“Damages will be recovered from those found involved in arson and violence. This, however, is a preliminary estimate and the figure could go up after the final analysis,’’ Yadav told reporters.
PTI quoted sources who indicated that those deemed guilty of damaging railway property would be charged under Section 151 of the Indian Railway Act, which provides for up to seven years’ jail.
The railways could also go to court to seek damages. Yadav did not say how those involved in the vandalism would be identified.
The Supreme Court had in April 2009 set guidelines for the assessment of damage and liability in the Destruction of Public and Private Properties vs State of Andhra Pradesh and others.
The assessment of damage has to be backed by evidence and the onus of proving that the damage was caused during protests and by the people named rests on the prosecution. The claims are processed under the watch of the Supreme Court or the high court concerned, and the quantum of damages is decided through a court-ordained process and not by the executive.
Under this process, the court appoints a sitting or a retired judge as a claims commissioner to estimate the damage, investigate the liability with the help of an assessor, establish that the destruction to property was the result of the protest, and decide how the liability is to be borne by those held guilty.
Even before the April 2009 judgment, India had a law to punish those who destroy public property, the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984. But it did not have a provision for the accused to bear the cost of the damage, Supreme Court lawyer K.V. Dhananjay told The Telegraph.
Till 1984, provisions of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 were invoked to deal with the destruction of public property.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has started the trend of the executive trying to extract damages for property destruction, with his police issuing notices to over 250 people who allegedly resorted to violence during the anti-citizenship-act protests in the state.
Adityanath’s support base has welcomed the move but senior lawyers have questioned the administration’s power to decide the compensation amount and collect it entirely bypassing the judiciary.