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Yogi govt set to form tribunal to claim damages from riot-accused

LUCKNOW: While the issue of ‘name and shame’ hoardings featuring 57 protestors accused of destroying public property during anti-CAA protests on December 19-20 is yet to be settled, Yogi Adityanath government has decided to constitute a ‘Compensation Claims Tribunal’ to recover the damages from the accused in violent protests during which public and private property was destroyed.

The ordinance – ‘UP Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Ordinance 2020’ – which approved by the UP Cabinet on Friday night (March 13) was promulgated after Governor Anandiben Patel gave her accent on Sunday.

After the official promulgation of the ordinance, as the follow-up step, the proposed Claims Tribunal would now onwards address all the cases of the damage and loss of the property of the government and the private individuals during riots, demonstrations, political processions and illegal agitations.

As per the government spokesman, a retired district judge or an officer of the rank of additional commissioner would head the tribunal and it will have two or more members.

The proposed tribunal will be governed by the rules and provisions of the ordinance. It would be incumbent upon the tribunal to assess the damages caused to public or private property in such cases. Moreover, it would have the power to appoint a ‘claims commissioner’ to estimate the damages and investigate liabilities further.

It has been empowered to appoint an assessor of the damages to the properties in every district. The claims commissioner will have the responsibility to make a report and submit it to the tribunal within a period of three months or such time as may be granted by the tribunal. Moreover, the tribunal will also have the power to attach the property.

The proposed tribunal has been empowered to direct the state authorities to publish the name, address, along with photographs of the rioters and troublemakers with a warning for public at large not to purchase the attached property after serving a recovery notice on the accused. However, the accused persons would be given adequate and fair opportunity to present their case.

This provision is being seen as a step to insulate the actions like the one taken recently by Lucknow administration against anti-CAA protestors against any legal scrutiny.

The ordinance also provides that on the receipt of the report of the circle officer concerned based on FIR of the incident, the district magistrate or commissioner of police shall take immediate steps to file a claim petition before the tribunal for compensation preferably within three months of the date of the incident.

The proposed claims tribunal will have all the powers of a civil court. “If any amount as compensation has been paid – to the owner of private property – by the government or an insurance company, then the claims tribunal shall adjust such amount from the compensation amount,” says the ordinance.

Under the new law, any private person /individual can also move its petition before the tribunal for claiming the compensation, provided the petitioner had not claimed it from the insurance company or any other such agency.

What is more, the ordinance makes it clear that no other civil court will hear such cases of recovery of the compensation and all such matters related to loss of property during agitation, will be taken up by the claims tribunal only.

It may be recalled that the Allahabad High Court had taken a suo motu cognizance of recovery hoardings put up by Lucknow administration across all main crossings of state capital on March 5. The High Court on March 9 had ordered the state government to remove the hoardings and file a compliance report by March 16.

The state government, however, challenged the HC order in the Supreme Court which referred the issue to a larger bench on March 11.

Subsequently, the state government fortified its action against anti-CAA protestors by bringing the ‘UP Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Ordinance 2020’ citing a 2009 order of the Supreme Court to set up a tribunal or other competent authorities for the recovery of compensation in such cases.