The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to refund the damages "worth crores" recovered for the destruction of public properties following the December 2019 anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the state.
The Supreme Court's decision came after the UP government said it had withdrawn the February 14 and 15 government order which resulted in the 274 show-cause notices being issued against people. The UP government on Friday further submitted that it would conduct all subsequent proceedings in accordance with the enactment of the new 2020 law.
The top court explained that if the order attaching the properties was illegal, and if such orders are now withdrawn, then the recoveries must be refunded.
"However, it will be subject to the decision of the claims tribunal," the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant said. It further clarified that the refund was ordered since the notices have been withdrawn by the state. "All consequences of withdrawal have to follow," the bench added.
Justice Chandrachud observed that when the Supreme Court had delivered the 2009 and 2018 judgments on recovery of damages to the destruction of public and private property, the "idea was that there must be accountability when public property is damaged".
"But our concern was that this should be through a process which is overseen by judicial minds. Ultimately state properties have to be safeguarded, but at the same time, there has to be a judicial forum which deals with it, so that the due process is ensured," Justice Chandrachud said.
The bench added that the state could initiate fresh proceedings against the protestors in accordance with the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2021.
The top court's order came on a plea seeking to quash the notices on the grounds that they flouted Supreme Court guidelines on recoveries in the event of damage to public and private properties during protests.
At the previous hearing, on February 11 the Supreme Court had pulled up the state government observing that the show-cause notices seeking recovery of damages were sent to the accused before the 2020 act came in force.
The Supreme Court had said that the state had acted like a "complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor" when executive officers, as opposed to judicial officers, had issued orders after conducting the proceedings to attach the properties of the accused.
The top court had further pointed out to its 2009 ruling—reiterated in 2018—which said that independent tribunals headed by judicially trained minds would act as commissioners who would estimate damages in such cases and investigate the liabilities.
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