New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday voiced concern over the damage to public property during agitations, saying the country cannot be held to ransom and that it will lay down parameters for fixing accountability for the losses.
A bench headed by Justice JS Khehar said that it has decided to look into the issue of damage to public properties during agitations.
"We will lay down parameters for fixing accountabilities for the damage caused to public properties during agitations. You cannot burn the country's or its citizens' property.
"We must take a call on the issue and we would frame guidelines for taking action against people indulging in such acts," the bench also comprising Justice C Nagappan said.
It further said, "The country must know what are the consequences. No one can take the country to ransom during agitations."
It also said, "Whether it is BJP or Congress or any other organisation, they must realise that they can be held accountable for the damage to the public property."
The bench's observatinon came while hearing a plea of Gujarat Pattidar leader Hardik Patel seeking quashing of FIR lodged against him.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that Hardik Patel had challenged the FIR against him but a chargesheet has already been filed in the case.
"Now after FIR, the chargesheet has been filed and it cannot be tested in the Supreme Court," Rohatgi said.
The bench said that the petitioner was more concerned about bail and not the chargesheet.
To this, Rohatgi replied that his bail applications are already pending before the sessions court.
The bench then said that it has decided to look into the larger issue of damage to public properties during agitations and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.
The apex court had on 14 January, asked the AG to assist it on the approach to be adopted in dealing with cases where public property has been damaged in large scale.
While hearing the appeal of quota stir leader Hardik Patel in a criminal case, the apex court had also directed Gujarat Police to provide him an English translation of its chargesheet filed in the case against him and others for allegedly instigating Patel community members to kill
Hardik's counsel had alleged that the English version of the chargesheet has not been provided to him and moreover, the police supplied a password-protected CD of the video footage to him without the password.
Earlier, the court had allowed Gujarat Police to file a chargesheet in the case in which it was alleged that Hardik had instigated the community members to kill policemen and adopted violent ways to "wage war against Gujarat government".
Besides the present case, the apex court is also seized of another plea of Hardik challenging the High Court's decision declining to quash the sedition charge invoked against him and others in a case lodged for allegedly attacking places like police stations in the state.
The state police had lodged the case in October against 22-year-old Hardik and five of his close aides on the charge of sedition and waging war against the government.
Later, Hardik, Chirag Patel, Dinesh Bambhaniya and Ketan Patel were arrested and are currently behind bars.
Two other Hardik aides, Amrish Patel and Alpesh Kathiriya, were not arrested as the High court had granted them interim protection.
The High Court had ordered the removal of three IPC sections in the FIR — sections 121 (waging war against government), 153-A (promoting enmity between different communities) and 153-B (assertions prejudicial to national integrity) — against Hardik and five of his aides.
It, however, refused to drop IPC sections 124 (sedition) and 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against government), which attract punishment of life imprisonment or up to 10 years.
In his second plea, Hardik has challenged the High Court's decision declining to quash the sedition charge invoked against him and others in a case lodged for allegedly attacking places like police stations in the state.
In his plea, Hardik has claimed that the charges have wrongly been invoked against him as there was no conspiracy to wage war against the government and, at best, it is the case of use of "intemperate language" which can be tried under some other penal provisions.