Tamil Nadu

Don’t let political parties go scot-free after damaging public property, HC tells TN Govt

Political parties and communal, linguistic or ethnic groups cannot be let to go scot-free when their cadre indulge in violence, damage public property and terrorise the people during agitations, the Madras High Court has said. It has insisted upon stringent action against them to recover the losses not only for the physical damage caused but also for disruption of public services due to the violence.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam said that ordinary citizens were mostly voiceless and hence it was the duty of the constitutional courts to be the voice of the voiceless for the purpose of protecting their fundamental and constitutional rights. He pointed out that it was such voiceless citizens who were forced to tolerate numerous illegalities committed either by political parties or the communal, linguistic and ethnic groups.

“A majority of right-thinking citizens are the victims of such violence and their normal life gets affected to a great extent. Many poor people have lost their property and huge damages have been caused to public property. Therefore, the Government of the day is expected to initiate quick and effective actions in such circumstances where any mischief is committed and damage or loss is caused to the properties,” he wrote.

Observing that effective implementation of the Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act of 1992 was not visible in the State even 29 years after its enactment, the judge directed the Commissioner of Revenue Administration to issue a circular directing Collectors and Superintendents of Police to ensure stringent action. He said the government officials should be punished for their lapses.

The directions were issued while disposing of a writ petition filed by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in 2014. The party had challenged an inquiry initiated by the Commissioner of Revenue Administration in June 2013 for recovering from it the reported financial loss suffered by Metropolitan Transport Corporation Chennai (MTC) which could not operate its buses in full strength between April 25 and May 19 of 2013 due to violence.

The court was told that the PMK and Vanniar Sangam had conducted “Chithirai Tiruvizha” in Mamallapuram on April 25, 2013. On that day, some party cadres entered into a wordy quarrel at Kadayam Theru Colony bus stop near Marakanam. It snowballed into large-scale violence and road traffic was disrupted for several hours on the East Coast Road (ECR). Several properties were damaged.

After the police resorted to arrest, the party contemplated demonstrations at various places on April 30, 2013 without obtaining due permission. Hence, the party founder S. Ramadoss and many others were arrested. This incident escalated the violence with the cadres indulging in road roko, throwing of stones on vehicles, felling of trees and damaging public as well as private property.

On account of such violence, a tense situation prevailed in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts from April 25, 2013 to May 19, 2013 and regular bus services could not be operated. Totally, 58 buses (12 in Chennai, 26 in Tiruvallur and 20 in Kancheepuram) were damaged during that point of time and the loss to the public exchequer ran to several crores of rupees, MTC counsel M. Chidambaram told the court.

Without expressing any opinion on the merits of the issue, the judge said a writ petition against a notice issued for inquiry could not be entertained and that it was up to the PMK to defend itself during the inquiry. Though it was argued by the party that the criminal cases booked against the party cadres had ended up in acquittal, the judge said the proof required in a criminal case was way higher than that was required in an inquiry under the 1992 Act.

Refusing to interfere with the inquiry in any way, he ordered that the Commissioner of Revenue Administration should complete the proceedings within four months and the petitioner party must cooperate in the process.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 4:21:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dont-let-political-parties-go-scot-free-after-damaging-public-property-hc-tells-tn-govt/article36697912.ece

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