Victims are culprits in MP? Ex-cop, 12-year-old boy among 7 served notices in Khargone by claim tribunal

Talab Chowk after the violence in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh. | Photo: Kashif Kakvi The Wire

The tribunal issued a notice to a 12-year-old boy and directed him to pay Rs 2.9 lakh as compensation for causing the loss of property, belonging to a woman, during violence that took place after the Ram Navami procession.

TCN Staff Correspondent 

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BHOPAL (MADHYA PRADESH) — Victims are perhaps culprits for the Madhya Pradesh government and therefore, those whose houses were attacked by Hindutva mobs during communal violence at the state’s Khargone city on April 10 have been served recovery notices by tribunals for allegedly indulging in vandalism and stone pelting.

Established under the Madhya Pradesh Prevention and Recovery of Damages to Public Property Act, the tribunal has issued a notice to a 12-year-old boy (name withheld as he is a juvenile) — directing him to pay Rs 2.9 lakh as compensation for causing the loss of property, belonging to a woman, during a Ram Navami procession violence.

Apart from him, his father Kalu Khan, a resident of Khargone’s Anand Nagar locality, too have got a separate notice of Rs 4.80 lakh.  

The father-son duo have been accused of vandalising and robbing the home of their neighbours (the woman) during the violence.

Denying the allegation, Khan, a driver by profession, said no FIR (first information report) had been lodged against him and his son, yet they were served the recovery notices.

“It was iftar time when the violence broke out, and we were waiting for azaan to have the evening meal to breakfast. We did not even step out of our home,” he said.

Asked how a minor was handed over the notice, Prabhat Prashar, a tribunal member, said it’s a civil matter and not a criminal case where children get protection from the Juvenile Justice Act.

“There is a complaint of vandalism against the boy, and his lawyer failed to prove beyond doubt that the child was not part of the crowd. His parents will have to pay the money as they are responsible for him,” he added.

As they received the notice, said the family, they approached the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court with a prayer to issue direction to quash the order. 

Disposing of the matter on September 12, the High Court bench gave the petitioner an option to make an appeal before the tribunal.

Accordingly, the boy, through his mother, has argued before the tribunal that he cannot be considered a “child in conflict with law” since he is not charged with any crime. 

Describing the notice as “arbitrary”, “illegal” and “unconstitutional”, the boy then urged the tribunal chairman, Dr SK Mishra (a former judge), to quash it. But his application was rejected on the ground that the tribunal is “not seized with the charges, but the complaint of civil nature filed by the woman”.

The lawyer, representing the boy, Ashar Ali Warsi, said he is awaiting the tribunal’s detailed order on the woman’s claim. “Once it is received, we will decide how to proceed in this matter,” he added.

Those who have received the notice include six others who are adults. Among them is 63-year-old Nasir Khan (a retired police officer).

Petrol bombs were hurled at his house at Khargone’s Tadvi Mohalla on April 10 night during the violence. He survived with a close shave. 

He has received a recovery notice of Rs 1.16 lakh for “pelting stones” on the house of his next-door neighbour Peeyush Vasare. One of his tin-shed roofs got damaged in the alleged attack.

Interestingly, Vasare had filed a case — claiming to have suffered a loss of Rs 1.16 lakh. He has already been paid a sum of Rs 18,000 from the state government as compensation for his losses following an assessment carried out by the engineers of the Public Works Department (PWD) of the damages.

Dissatisfied with the government compensation, he approached the claims tribunal — which served Khan with the notice based on his complaints.

Khan claimed after setting a blaze in his kitchen and four bikes parked on the premises of his house, the rioters were breaking the main door of his residence. They were rescued, he said, by a police team — which was patrolling the area at that moment.

The man struggled for five days to lodge an FIR against the rioters. And when he pressed for action against the rioters, he too was booked under severe sections of the Indian Penal Code two days later following Vasare’s complaint against him.

In a written complaint dated June 30, he told the Khargone police that he was helping the cops to control the situation and later got injured when rioters attacked his home and that he was framed in a false case.

When the police did not apprehend any of the accused named in his FIR who were allegedly threatening him with dire consequences, he met senior police officers and pressed for action.

The very next day, a member of his family said, that police came to arrest him in connection with the FIR registered by Vasare. 

Since then, he has been on the run. 

After assessing his losses, four members of the former cop’s family were paid Rs 80,000 by the government. 

He has also filed a recovery suit of around Rs 2 lakh in the claims court.

The Madhya Pradesh government, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had set up the tribunal within 48 hours of the communal violence. It is tasked to hear the claims court’s cases of damages to public and private properties and recover the money from an individual or a group within three months.

The court has received a total of 343 cases and shortlisted 34 cases for hearing. On October 14, the tribunal delivered the verdict in six cases while the remaining cases are sub judice. It ordered the recovery of Rs 7.46 lakh from 50 people accused of arson and destruction of property in the six cases.

Since the inception of the Public and Private Property Recovery Act 2021, which was in December last year without any debate, and its claims court are surrounded by controversies, with people raising questions on its legal validity.