New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed that properties of anti-CAA protesters, which were attached by Uttar Pradesh government should be restored to them, and also if they had paid money to the authorities concerned for the alleged damages should be also refunded.
At the outset, the Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, informed the top court that the state government has withdrawn notices sent to the anti-CAA protesters to recover damages to the properties.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said if recoveries have been made following the notices, then those have to be paid back, as the government has withdrawn the notices. Prashad said the state government has come to the court with clean hands and urged the top court to maintain status quo in connection with properties attached in the matter.
Advocate Nilofar Khan, representing the petitioner, said there were many people, including vegetable sellers, rickshaw pullers, etc., from whom recoveries have been made following these notices and the state government should issue refunds, after withdrawal of these notices.
Justice Chandrachud said there shall be a refund of the damages recovered in the meantime, however it will be subject to the claim’s tribunal, under new law. Prashad requested the bench to maintain status quo and added that certain properties have been taken into custody by the state government already.
The bench replied it is against the law and the court cannot go against the law. Prashad submitted that the model code of conduct has been placed in the state. The bench told Prashad this does not stop them from following the law and “when you have to implement a judgment of the Supreme Court how does the model code of conduct stop you”.
The bench said if an attachment has been done against the law and if such orders have been recalled, how can attachment go on? Justice Chandrachud said: “Once orders are recalled, then how can attachment continue…”
Prashad said this order of the top court will have an impact on the deterrence and cited there has been no incident in the state in the past two years. However, the top court was not convinced with Prashad’s arguments. She further submitted that the court is looking at small vendors, etc., but that is not the case and the entire law will be frustrated if refund is ordered.
“No, law cannot be frustrated…as you bought a new law. All deference against the evasion of law has to be within four corners of law and it cannot lie outside the four corners of the law,” said Justice Chandrachud.
The Uttar Pradesh government has issued two government orders (GOs) on February 14 and 15, withdrawing all show cause notices, which were issued in 274 cases in the destruction of public and private properties during the anti-CAA protest.
The new law — Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2020 — empowers the state government to set up tribunals to decide claims for damage to property.
On February 11, the top court had told the Uttar Pradesh government to withdraw these notices, otherwise it would quash them. Citing the top court’s verdicts in 2009 and 2018, the bench said judicial officers should have been appointed in claim tribunals, but the state government appointed Additional District Magistrates.