New Delhi: Following in the footsteps of Yogi Adityanath’s government in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh on Thursday passed stricter law to recover damaged property from protesters.
The Public and Private Property Damage Prevention and Damage Recovery Bill 2021 was passed in the Madhya Pradesh assembly by voice vote without discussion.
The law would allow proposed claims tribunals to recover double the cost of damages, with interest, if recovery (of the cost of damaged goods) is not made within 15 days. Similar law in Uttar Pradesh requires recovery of the only real cost of damage.
During the assembly, Madhya Pradesh Home Secretary Narottam Mishra said the law will be used to take action against people who damage private or public property by participating in processions, riots, demonstrations, community riots, bandageds and agitations.
He added that the law will also be used to take action against criminals who use explosives and various “mafias” – gambling, liquor, land, forests and mines.
In March, the Uttar Pradesh assembly passed the Public and Private Property Damage Recovery Bill, 2021, and the Uttar Pradesh Goonda Control (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Under both laws, the properties of several gangsters were seized by the state and damages recovered from protesters, including those who stirred during anti-CAA protests.
Passage of the Members’ Law – stricter than the UP Law at various levels – shows once again that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is trying to shake off his image as a “gentle and liberal” politician and gain a harder edge.
Whether it’s changing station names to tribal or Hindustva icons, passing Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion religious freedom bill, or being lenient with Hindustva groups like Bajrang Dal who allegedly repeatedly harassed Christians in the state, political analysts say the four-time chief minister has been consciously working to change his image.
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MP invoice different from UP
Unlike Uttar Pradesh, under Madhya Pradesh’s bill, district magistrates and tax officials were empowered to initiate collections and decide the final amount of a claim, while an injured party may apply to a claims tribunal for compensation without an FIR within 30 days of the vandalism or destruction incident.
Under the two UP bills, a person can only apply to a claims tribunal after an FIR has been registered and a report from a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) has been obtained. . The final decision on a claim for damages also rests with the state government.
In the member’s bill, ‘landlords’,’ tenants’, ‘leaseholders’,’jhuggi walas‘ and ‘thela walas” can claim damages for property vandalized during riots or demonstrations. In the UP bill, claims can only be filed by the owner of the damaged property.
Another major distinction: in the UP, the courts can render their decision within one year, while the law on deputies imposes judgments within three months.
Another bone of contention is the establishment of grievance tribunals under Madhya Pradesh’s bill – retired district judges or retired secretary-level officers may be members of them. The opposition Congress has alleged that these officials can be easily swayed.
Under the UP bill, an additional secretary-level officer is responsible for determining requests. In Haryana – the other state that has passed a similar law – there is a provision for consultation with the chief justice of the high court before appointing members to claims tribunals.
However, the strictest part of the MPs bill is that a court can charge fees for damage and destruction which can be double the actual cost of the damage. The comparable laws of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana provide for claiming an amount proportional to the harm suffered by the culprit.
When the law was brought up
A state law for compensation for damage to property, private and public, was raised when a rally of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) was shelled with stones in Ujjain and Indore last year.
“Those who throw stones and cause damage to public property will be subject to the law… this law is stricter than that of the UP,” Narottam Mishra told ThePrint. “He will control the anti-social elements, andolankaris and rioters. Whether it’s the land mafia, the alcohol mafia, the mining mafia… no one will be spared. Congress opposes this bill because of its appeasement policy, ”he said.
The opposition Congress likened the new bill to the draconian, now-abandoned POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and alleged that, like it, the law will also be misused against minorities.
“There is no definition of ‘gangster’, authorities can declare anyone a gangster on their whim and whim, just like the way TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act] and POTA has been misused. Equally great is the risk of abuse of this law by state authorities, ”former Madhya Pradesh general counsel Ravi Nandan Singh told ThePrint.
“There is already a law to deal with rioters, but to arrest people accused of being ‘mafia’ … this will target people who disagree with government policies,” he added.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)
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