Anti-CAA rioters in UP will still need to pay for the damages, media reports half-truth

The Supreme Court’s order on Friday directing the Uttar Pradesh government to refund the money obtained from people who destroyed public property during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the state has been reported in the media in a misleading manner.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by Parwaiz Arif Titu, who wanted the orders issued by the district administration to accused rioters to collect losses made to public property during the anti-CAA violence quashed. He was represented by Advocate Nilofar Khan who said the poor were unable to pay the sum attached by the government.

News portals have reported only the first portion of the order, saying the court has asked the UP government to refund the amount recovered from the anti-CAA rioters.

The report by India Today mentioned that “The Supreme Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to refund the complete amount collected after recovery notices that were issued to purported anti-CAA protestors were withdrawn by the state, following criticism by the top court.” The other portion of the order, though, was not mentioned.

the news report by India Today.

Similarly, other media portals and individuals also shared the first portion of the order. A Twitter user with username @Delhiite_ wrote, “Huge relief for Anti CAA protestors SC directs UP govt to refund crores recovered from anti_CAA_NRC_protestors.”

Barkha Dutt’s Mojo Story (@themojostory) tweeted “#SupremeCourt has directed the #UP government to refund the money received through recovery notices issued for damages caused to public property during the anti #CAA protests in 2019.”

Several misleading headlines and people rejoicing.

The actual order of the Supreme Court

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that money collected from persons accused of damaging public property during the anti-CAA agitations in Uttar Pradesh be returned.

However, the court made it very clear to all that the government can issue fresh notices against the rioters and can re-attach the properties under the new law that was brought by the UP government.

“The State as clarified is at liberty to proceed in accordance with the law that is the State legislation of 2021,” the court directed. This means the damages which were recovered can be recovered again by the State based on the outcome of the claims tribunals proceedings after issuing fresh notices under the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public Property Act, 2021, the court order stated.

The court order, screenshot from Bar and Bench article

Kanchan Gupta, senior advisor to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting tweeted revealing the misreporting of the news. He wrote, Hold the biriyani. Mute the music. Wipe your smiles. Alleged law handles and @PTI_News are (deliberately?) misreporting UP Govt withdrawing 2019 notices to #CAA vandals for damaging public property. SC has said damages must be recovered from CAA vandals, but under 2020 law.”

After the Uttar Pradesh government informed the Supreme Court on Friday that it has withdrawn the show cause notices addressed to anti-CAA protesters for damage recovery, a Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant issued this order.

Recently on February 11, the apex court had directed that all the notices issued for recoveries by the district administration should be withdrawn and fresh notices under the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2020 could be issued.

Additional Advocate General Garima Prashad brought it to the notice of the bench today that on the 14th and 15th of February 2022, two government orders were issued under which show cause notices issued in 274 cases for the destruction of public property since December 2019 were revoked. She further stated that such instances would now be sent to the Tribunals established by the 2020 Act.

Violent anti-CAA protests and UP govt’s action against rioters

It’s worth noting that the Uttar Pradesh government had dealt with the damages to the public property done by violent mobs during the anti-CAA protests very strictly and had made clear that the properties of violence instigators will be seized and the damages will be recovered from them.

To collect damages from rioters, the Uttar Pradesh government brought the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2020. According to the law, the state would establish claims courts to examine and provide compensation for damages caused during protests, as well as to reimburse the costs of police and administrative actions taken to avoid damage to public property.

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