The Kerala High Court reprimanded the state on Monday for taking too long to recover damages from the outlawed Popular Front of India (PFI) and its functionaries. The amount projected to cover the damage caused during the September flash hartal was Rs 5.20 crore, for which the government had earlier started recovery proceedings against PFI.
Despite the issuance of preemptive orders to proceed against the assets of PFI and its office bearers, including the Secretary, the division bench of Justice A. K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P. stated that “nothing substantial” has been done by the State.
The PFI and its leadership were previously the subject of suo motu proceedings by the court for calling for the “flash hartal,” and the court ordered them to pay damages estimated by the state government and the KSRTC in the amount of Rs. 5.20 crores to the Additional Chief Secretary of the Home Department.
The government had previously informed the court that the Revenue Department had received instructions to carry out the proceedings.
The revenue department has stated that it is “unfeasible” to complete the procedure within a month.
According to a submission, the department has already given the 14 district collectors instructions to categorise the mobile and immovable properties. The court was told that a requisition authority is to be appointed, and that authority must send requisitions to the district collectors.
“On the basis of the requisitions, the District Collectors have to serve notice to the arrearing parties through the Revenue Officials as per Kerala Revenue Recovery Act. 7 days prior notice has to be given to the defaulting party for payment of the arrears under Section 7 & 34 of the Revenue Recovery Act and if the dues are not paid within 7 days after serving the notices, then a forfeiture notice under Section 36 has to be issued to the defaulting parties. If the defaulting party does not pay the amount, a notice of auction should be given as per Section 49(2), which should be duly served and advertised at least 30 days before the date of the auction,” the state submitted.
The home department added that despite instructions given to the District Collector in Ernakulam to provide the Claims Commissioner with secretarial support, including office space and infrastructure, the District Collector has now informed them that they are unable to provide this support in the Collectorate due to a lack of staff and office space. The court has been informed that other measures are being taken.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the response, the court said:
“We find the attitude of the State Government, as discernible from the averments in the paragraphs of the affidavit extracted above, to be wholly unacceptable, and per se disrespectful to the directions of this Court. The State Government cannot adopt such a callous attitude when called upon to implement the directions of this Court, especially in matters of public interest and involving destruction of public property. “
The court ordered the Additional Chief Secretary of the Home Department to appear and bring “an affidavit sworn by him indicating the time term within which the instructions granted by us regarding the recovery of the amount of Rs. 5.20 crores will be executed,” on Friday, December 23.
Before leaving, the court emphasised that the period allotted for following the earlier instructions would not be prolonged until January 31.