The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested that State governments and political parties be made accountable for the damage caused to public property during violent agitations.
“The State governments can be asked to first pay for the damage caused to property and then recover it from the sponsors of such agitations, while the political parties initiating or sponsoring such violent stirs could be de-recognised,” observed a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya during the course of hearing of PIL petitions relating to agitations in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur.
On behalf of the Railways, it was submitted that its property worth Rs. 33.95 crore was damaged during the agitation by Jats in Haryana in January 2011 in connection with the developments over the anti-Dalit violence at Mirchpur in April 2010.
Referring to this loss, the Bench asked Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman whether “the State government [can be asked] to pay Rs. 33 crore to the Railways and then recover the money from the sponsors of the agitation.”
The Bench also asked the SG to give his opinion as to whether the judiciary could make a recommendation to the Election Commission to derecognise political parties which persisted with resorting to violent agitations.
It said: “Making the sponsors pay for the damage would be a great deterrent. Further, the government should set an example. Courts can’t do it.”
In its suggestion, the Centre maintained that it was the duty of the State governments to maintain law and order and ensure smooth movement of traffic on national highways. It, however, favoured deployment of paramilitary forces to clear a blockade of national highways during an agitation if the State government concerned was unable to clear the blockade within 12 hours.
It said as soon as information pertaining to a blockade was received, the Home Secretary of the State concerned would be asked to remove it immediately. If for any reason the blockade was not removed within 12 hours, the State Home Secretary would be asked to request the Union Home Secretary to direct deployment of Central paramilitary forces to restore public order within 24 hours and the Centre would act accordingly.
The district magistrate concerned would record the quantum of loss to public and private property in the violent acts of the agitators and he would take appropriate steps to recover the loss from the delinquent individuals. He would also initiate mandatory prosecution against persons involved in acts of rioting and violence and the special designated judge would be asked to dispose of the cases within six months.
Central intelligence agencies would pass on to the concerned State government information gathered on any likely stirs that would affect road, rail or air traffic. It would then be the duty of the Home Secretary to defuse the situation and prevent the blockade at the outset, the suggestions submitted by the SG said.