The Muzaffarnagar district administration in Uttar Pradesh has started the legal process of recovering Rs 23 lakh from 53 people for damage to public properties during the December 20 violent protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and proposed nationwide NRC.
The district has become the first to do so, nearly two months after the BJP government in the state announced that it will recover money for the damage from protesters.
A month ago, the district administration had issued notices to 57 people, seeking reply on why money should not be recovered from them for the damage to public properties during the December 20 protest.
The notices were issued based on a report prepared by local police after scanning CCTV footage, photographs and videos of the incident.
While issuing these notices, the administration had said that it derives such powers on the basis of an Allahabad High Court order of December 2, 2010, in Mohammad Shujauddin vs State of Uttar Pradesh.
Of the 57 people against whom notices were served, 53 had filed their replies, saying they were not involved in the violence. Three did not submit their representation.
“After hearing the replies of the people against whom the notices were served, an order has now been passed directing Tehsildar (Sadar) to recover damages of Rs 23.41 lakh from 53 people. They will have to deposit the money collectively. Four persons were given a clean chit because there was no direct evidence against them and one was a minor,” Additional District Magistrate (Muzaffarnagar) Amit Singh said.
The district administration said that most of the damage to public properties took place at Madani crossing in Civil Lines area of Muzaffarnagar on December 20. As many as 30 cases were lodged at Civil Lines Police Station in connection with the violence. Around 21 vehicles, including government and private vehicles, were damaged. Few vehicles were also set ablaze. Police and Additional Regional Transport Officer had evaluated the total damage at Rs 23.41290. Damage of private and government vehicles and police weapons were pegged at Rs 21,50,000 and Rs 1.91,290, respectively.
“Evidence, including CCTV footage, was shown to the people who replied to the notices. Some denied that they were not in the video. A letter was then sent to SHO Civil Lines to again verify the people. Police conducted an inquiry and sent another report to the district administration stating that the identity of all the 57 people has been verified,” said Singh, adding that statements of people who filed protest were again heard before the final order was passed.
Lawyer Munnar Hussain, who represented the defendants, said that most of the people against whom notices were issued were daily wage labourers and they were being harassed by police.
“I was not involved in the violence. So far, the police have not arrested me. I am a daily wage labourer and after receiving the notice of damage, I got confused how to deposit fine,” 55-year-old Riyaz Ahmed alias Raju Buggi, told The Indian Express.
One person was killed and several others, including policemen, were injured during the December 20 protest in Civil Lines and Kotwali areas of Muzaffarnagar district.
As many as 45 FIRs were registered. Police have so far arrested 92 people. Senior Superintendent of Police (Muzaffarnagar) Abhishek Yadav said that efforts are being made to arrest other accused.
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