The Madhya Pradesh High Court, Indore Bench, recently issued a notice to the State in response to a petition challenging the legality of the MP Prevention and Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2021. This significant development sheds light on the legal implications and potential issues surrounding this legislation.
Background of the Case
The case was heard by a bench comprising Justices Vivek Rusia and AN Kesharwani. The petitioner’s case revolves around their alleged victimization by the State Government following the Khargone Riots that occurred on 10.04.2022. In the aftermath of these events, a claims tribunal was established, pursuant to a gazette notification issued by the State. The tribunal initiated proceedings against the petitioner’s husband, leading to an FIR being filed against him. Consequently, both the petitioner and her husband now find themselves subject to the provisions of the 2021 Act.
Challenges to the Act
The petitioner’s central argument is that the provisions of the MP Prevention and Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2021, infringe upon the principles of natural justice and the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. Several specific concerns have been raised:
- Vague Definitions: The petitioner contends that certain definitions within the Act, such as that of a “person,” are vague and open to misuse, as evidenced in her case.
- Procedural Arbitrariness: The process for filing claims, as outlined in Sections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Act, is alleged to be arbitrary, unclear, and contrary to the doctrine of the right to a fair trial.
- Contradictory Provisions: The petitioner highlights inconsistencies within the Act, such as the disparity between Section 6(2), which instructs claims tribunals to adjudicate matters within 3 months, and Section 3(1), which mandates disposal within 30 days.
- Double Jeopardy: She raises concerns about Section 17, which allows proceedings of a claim petition to proceed concurrently with any criminal proceedings. This, she argues, violates Article 20(2) of the Constitution by potentially subjecting an accused individual to multiple proceedings for the same action.
- Dual Liability: The petitioner argues that Section 11 of the Act, which permits claiming compensation, operates alongside Section 357 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), creating dual liability for the same act. This, she contends, leads to ambiguity and arbitrariness in determining an accused person’s liability.
Prayer for Relief
In her petition, the petitioner requests the Court to declare the MP Prevention and Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2021, as ultra vires (beyond the powers) of the Constitution. She also seeks a declaration that the tribunals established under the provisions of the Act are unconstitutional.
It is worth noting that the petitioner had previously approached the Court with concerns that she might be affected by the State’s demolition drive following the Khargone Riots. The Court, having received assurances from the State regarding due process, had disposed of her earlier petition.
The legal challenge to the MP Prevention and Recovery of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2021, raises significant questions about its compatibility with constitutional principles and fundamental rights. As the case unfolds in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, it underscores the importance of ensuring that legislation respects the principles of justice, fairness, and legal clarity. The outcome of this case may have broader implications for similar laws and their impact on individual rights and protections in India.