Recent events of violence in Punjab after the assasination of a Sikh guru in Vienna fall squarely within the type of cases that the Supreme Court intended to cover while delivering its judgment in In re Destruction of Public and Private Properties v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Others (2009) [discussed on this blog previously]. I will reproduce Namita’s helpful summary of the directions given in that case:
1. Wherever a mass destruction to property takes place due to protests etc., the High Court or, where more than one state is involved, the Supreme Court can initiate suo motu proceedings to investigate the damage caused and to award compensation.
2. In each case, the court shall appoint a sitting or retired High Court judge or a sitting or retired District judge as a Claims Commissioner to estimate the damages and investigate liability.
3. The Claims Commissioner may seek court instructions to summon video or other recordings from private and public sources to pinpoint thedamage and establish nexus with the perpetrators of the damage.
4. The principles of absolute liability shall apply once the nexus with the event that precipitated the damage is established. The court will apportion liability between the actual perpetrators of the crime as well as organisers of the event giving rise to liability.
5. Exemplary damages may be awarded to an extent not greater than twice the amount of the damages liable to be paid.
6. Damages shall be assessed for causing destruction to public and private property as well as for causing injury or death to a person or persons and finally for costs of preventive actions by the police and the other authorities.
Will the Punjab and Haryana High Court now follow these clear directions of the Supreme Court?