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Northeast Delhi riots: State asks HC to assign commissioner to assess damage

The communal violence in north-east Delhi last month claimed 53 lives and left more than 500 injured.

Updated: Mar 17, 2020 08:52 IST

By Abhishek Dey, Hindustan Times New Delhi

A general view of a relief camp, which was set up after people fled their homes with their families following Hindu-Muslim clashes triggered by a CAA 2019, in Mustafabad in the riot-affected northeast of New Delhi. (REUTERS)

The Delhi government’s home department has written to the registrar general of the Delhi high court, asking for a claims commissioner to be appointed for the evaluation of damage of public property and the investigation of liability to initiate the recovery process in cases of destruction of property, during incidents of riots in the city.

Delhi home secretary Satya Gopal confirmed the development to HT but did not give further details. Delhi’s home minister Satyendar Jain did not respond to phone calls and messages.

On February 29, HT had published a report that said the Delhi Police has decided to recover the cost of damages to public and private property during the riots in north-east Delhi from people identified by the police as “rioters”.

The initiative is similar to one in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh where, in December 2019, the state government had sent notices to at least 400 people identified as “rioters” to recover damages to properties during anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the state. Last week, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly introduced a new law through an ordinance to back the action.

The communal violence in north-east Delhi last month claimed 53 lives and left more than 500 injured. It also led to significant damage to hundreds of houses, business enterprises, vehicles and public property, a separate assessment of which is being done by the Delhi government under chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s directions.

A day after Holi, on March 11 Union home minister Amit Shah confirmed the development and said “the government” wants to set up a claims commission to recover damages from rioters and the HC has already been approached for the purpose. Shah, however, did not clarify whether he referred to the central government or the Delhi government.

A senior official in Delhi’s home department on Monday said they had written to the registrar general of the HC a day before Holi. He said the request had come to the home department from the Delhi Police.

Delhi Police’s deputy commissioner for the legal cell Rajesh Deo, who is also heading one of the special investigation teams probing the violence in north-east Delhi, said, “Yes, we sent a request. The matter has now been forwarded to the high court.”

Delhi high court registrar General Manoj Jain’s office did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.

On December 30, 2019, the Delhi Police had written to the Delhi HC urging it to appoint a claims commissioner to assess the cost of damage to public and private properties and help initiating the recovery from the accused once liability was established in connection with violence across Delhi on December 15, following protests against the CAA.

The police had further cited a Supreme Court order to suggest that the claims commissioner can be a retired High Court or district court judge. The court, however, had then reportedly told the police that the request for appointing a claims commissioner has to come through the Delhi government’s home department.

According to senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, the case can be “tricky” for Delhi.

“Uttar Pradesh created a mechanism through an executive order and later passed an Ordinance, the constitutional validity of which is yet to be tested in the court. It looks like, Delhi is heading in the same direction. But it will be more challenging. While an executive order like this can be issued by the union home ministry, if legislation has to make a law, the Delhi legislature has to pass it. Now that can make the whole affair tricky,” Hegde said.


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