The Madhya Pradesh cabinet today approved a bill relating to recovery and redressal of damage to public and private properties during strikes, protests, communal riots, or any congregation of people. It allows for the recovery of damages from perpetrators.
The state cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday gave its nod to the proposed draft of Madhya Pradesh Lok Evam Niji Sampati Ka Nuksan Nivaran Evam Nusksani Ki Vasuli (Redressal and Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Properties) Bill 2021. The Bill will be introduced in the winter session of the Vidhan Sabha, starting from December 20.
Home minister Narottam Mishra, said, “The proposed Bill, after it becomes a law, will pave the passage for recovery of damages caused to public and private properties (during violent protests, processions, bandhs, strikes, and communal riots) from the protestors/rioters who caused the damages and from those who provoke protestors/rioters for causing the damage”.
Two other BJP-ruled states, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have already enacted similar laws.
According to the bill, the state government can form a claims tribunal headed by a retired district judge or a retired secretary of the state government for affected areas and relevant durations. Affected parties can file an application within a month. The tribunal can appoint a claims commissioner to help in the investigation of claims.
During a trial, once the prosecution succeeds in proving that public property was damaged in direct actions called by an organisation in which the accused also participated, the court can draw a presumption that the accused is guilty of destroying public property too. The onus of proving innocence will be on him or her from this stage of trial onwards, officials told news agency PTI.
Along with those who damage properties, the bill also allows for the same penalties from those who encourage and abet such acts. The tribunal can award compensation of up to twice the value of the damages. If the compensation decided by the tribunal is not paid within 15 days, the accused will be liable to pay interest over the compensation amount and also pay for the amount spent by the affected party in the process of the application. The tribunal, which will be accorded the same powers as a civil court, must decide on the claims within three months.
The bill allows for the seizure of assets to pay the compensation in case the accused doesn’t pay within 15 days. It also proposes a provision that “specified categories” of leaders of the organisation which gave the call for direct action resulting in damage to public property shall be deemed guilty of abetment.
At the same time, no innocent person, in spite of being a leader of the organisation, shall be made to suffer for the actions of others, the bill said. The principles of absolute liability shall apply once the nexus with the event that precipitated the damage is established, the bill stated.
The liability will be borne by the actual perpetrators of the crime as well as organisers of the event.