Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
UP property damage ordinance
What to study?
For Prelims: Features of the Ordinance.
For Mains: Significance of the law and legal challenges ahead.
Context: The Uttar Pradesh cabinet has approved an ordinance that would allow the state to recover the cost of damages to public property from riots accused individuals.
About the UP property damage ordinance:
- The ordinance makes provisions for the setting up of claims tribunals, one or more, to “investigate the damage caused (during protests) and to award compensation” and to cover “cost of action” taken by police and administration for prevention of damage to public properties.
- Sweeping powers have been granted to a new claims tribunal, including on collecting compensation ex-parte if required, that is, without hearing the individual who is accused of vandalism.
- The award of compensation made by the tribunal will be final and cannot be appealed against before any civil court.
- Composition: The tribunal will be headed by a retired district judge appointed by the state government and may include a member who is an officer of the rank of Additional Commissioner.
- The law allows the constitution of multiple tribunals for a single event to ensure that the proceedings are concluded “preferably within three months” and allows the tribunal to appoint one assessor “who is technically qualified to assess such damage from a panel appointed by the state government”.
- Procedure to be followed: The tribunal, may follow “summary procedure as it thinks fit” and has the powers of a civil court for evaluating evidence and enforcing the attendance of witnesses. It bars any civil court from interfering with any directives of the claims tribunal.
- Burden of proof: The ordinance also places the burden of proving that one has no “nexus” to a protest, hartal, strike, bandh, riot or public commotion — during which any destruction of public or private property was caused – on the individual, failing which the individual’s properties will be seized.
- Principle of absolute liability under law shall apply once “the nexus with the event that precipitated the damage is established”. The law, however, does not specify what the nature of the “nexus” would be.
- Under Section 21(2), the new law says that while liability will be borne by the “actual perpetrators of the crime”, one who “instigates” or “incites” the crime would share the liability as per the decision of the claims tribunal. However, the law does not discuss what action constitutes incitement or instigation.
The timing of the ordinance is significant as it was promulgated four days after the SC refused to stay the Allahabad HC’s order, and a day before the HC’s deadline for removing the state government’s name-and-shame posters of alleged rioters. What remains to be seen is whether the state’s decision will pass the SC test.
- Ordinance vs Bill- similarities, differences and procedure to be followed.
- Do all ordinances require the assent of President or Governors of respective states.
- Tenure and repromulgation of ordinances.
- Applicability of judicial review.
- Jurisdiction of High Courts vs Supreme Court.
- Original vs appellate vs advisory jurisdiction of Superior Courts.
Ordinance making power is to be used as a last resort, however in reality it is not so. Discuss the safeguards that are designed to prevent misuse of ordinance making power?
Sources: Indian Express.