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After UP, MP sets stage for a law to recover damages from protesters

If the damages are not paid within 15 days of the Tribunal order, the tribunal will then be empowered to write to the district collector concerned to make recovery on the lines of the same done by the Revenue Department.

The Bill is likely to come up for discussion in the winter session of the State Assembly scheduled to be held November-end. (Representational Image)

Following in the footsteps of UP and Haryana, the Madhya Pradesh government is all set to introduce a Bill that will allow the administration to recover upto twice the cost of damages caused to public and private property by an individual or a group during communal riots, protests and rallies.

The Bill, which has been tentatively titled Madhya Pradesh Public and Private Property Damage Resolution and Recovery Bill, 2021, is likely to come up for discussion in the winter session of the State Assembly scheduled to be held November-end.

The Bill envisages the formation of claims tribunals across the state with powers of Civil Courts under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908.

These tribunals will be empowered to recover up to twice the cost of damages incurred by an individual or the government, and levies interest in case the recovery is not made within 15 days from the date of order.

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The tribunal can also compensate an individual for the money spent in fighting the case in its ambit.

If the damages are not paid within 15 days of its order, the tribunal will be empowered to ask the District Collector concerned to undertake recovery.

Officials said that each tribunal will have former senior functionaries who have retired — district judge, DG and IG, and secretaries — for dispute resolution and award of compensation.

They said individuals or government departments can approach the tribunals for compensation within 30 days of incurring damage. In case of damage to private property, an individual can directly approach the tribunal. In cases of damage to government property, the tribunal will be notified by the District Collector.

A senior official said: “The tribunals will issue a certificate to the District Collector to recover pending dues as per the compensation awarded. The District Collector will act as per the provision under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1980.” The District Collectors can seize and auction movable and immovable assets of those held responsible for damages in a bid to recover the claims.

According to the Bill’s provisions, the damages will be recovered from those responsible for causing them and those found to have incited the incident or encouraged others to cause the damage.

“The cases in the tribunal will be resolved within three months and its order can only be challenged in the High Court. Those indulging in riots and stone-pelting, causing damage to public and private property, will not be spared,” MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra told reporters in Datia on Wednesday.

In 2020, in the wake of the anti-CAA protests, the UP government passed a law that placed the burden of proving the absence of any “nexus” linked to the protest, during which damage to public or private property was caused, on the individual facing charges.

The law, however, did not define what constituted such a “nexus”. Haryana passed a similar legislation this year.

Legal experts have warned that tribunals appointed by a government without any judicial presence could dilute due process since the administration both decides on and initiates the process of recovery.

Asked if the Bill is being drafted on the lines of those in UP and Haryana, Mishra said: “It is our own Bill and is not based on any other state.”

MP Principal Secretary (Home), Rajesh Rajora said: “The Bill will come up for discussion in the forthcoming winter session once it is passed by the Cabinet.”

A state law on these lines was first discussed in January after a rally by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) was pelted with stones in alleged retaliation to provocative slogans, triggering a communal clash.

This was followed by stone pelting on similar rallies in Indore and Mandsaur. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan later said that his government would bring a law to “make the stone-pelters pay” while asserting that the rule of law will prevail.

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First published on: 03-11-2021 at 03:40:12 pm
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