HC to ex-Sena MLA: Pay for damage during protest

March 6, 2010: The Indian Express

Saying a tough signal needed to be sent against vandalism, the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered a former Shiv Sena MLA to pay Rs 5.88 lakh to compensate for the damage caused to a five-star hotel in the city last year by protesting party workers.

Sitaram Dalvi, the former MLA, had been directed by the Mumbai Collector to pay Rs 7.88 lakh for the damages at Hotel Intercontinental caused by more than 500 Sainiks during a protest over labour issues in January last year. Dalvi was held responsible as he was the area leader of the party and one of those behind the protest.

Dalvi had deposited Rs 2 lakh and then petitioned the High Court for a stay on the Collector’s order. On Thursday, the court had asked him to consult his party leaders and find out if they would pay for the damages. Dalvi got back on Friday, saying he could not get in touch with his party chief or other leaders due to lack of time.

The division Bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Mridula Bhatkar then directed Dalvi to deposit the money by March 8. ¶This is not a question of money but is a question of what signal should go to the people. This breaking of property, burning buses and trains must be banned,¶ Justice Desai observed.

The High Court said that while protesting is a Constitutional right, destruction of public and private property could not be allowed. The court also cited the Supreme Court’s 2009 judgment where it laid down guidelines for recovering damages from organisers of political agitations.

The court also refused a request by Dalvi’s lawyer Shriram Kulkarni for some time to pay the Rs 5.88 lakh. ¶Are you suggesting it is difficult? What is so great about it?¶ asked Justice Desai. Kulkarni had earlier argued that Section 51 of the Bombay Police Act, under which the Collector issued the notice to Dalvi seeking damages, was unconstitutional as it did not contemplate a proper inquiry before liability to pay compensation was fixed.

He had also argued that there was no reason why Dalvi alone should be made to pay, when other members of the party too were involved in the protest. However, the court said that these issues can be looked at when the case comes up for final hearing.

Reacting to the order, Dalvi told The Indian Express, ¶Why should I involve the party now? It will bring about a lot of paperwork all over again with the Collector and court for the party. Instead I have taken the decision to pay the entire amount myself. I had initially paid the dues in my name amounting to Rs 2 lakh. When they started asking me to pay the rest of the amount as a vibhag pramukh, I challenged it. But now I have decided to keep the party out of the matter.¶


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