A letter from Madhya Pradesh: Khargone tribunal claims 12-year-old on trial in riot case

At his one-room home in Khargone’s Anand Nagar, Surajbai Gangle, 70, recounts the night of April 10 when he “could hardly sleep” because of communal clashes during a Ram Navami procession through the town. Eventually, he said, he got out of bed and saw two teenagers standing outside his house.

“I asked them what they were doing and the boys told me to go inside, I might get hurt by throwing stones… I thought they were my grandsons. But my daughter-in-law Sunita told me later that they were the children of our Muslim neighbors Kalu Khan and Jabir Khan. He saw them from behind as they left and recognized them,” she says.

Minutes later, Ganga’s three homes – Surajbai’s, her son Subhash’s and grandson Vikir’s – were attacked in a riot that spread to their area.

This became the basis of separate claims, totaling Rs 13.2 lakh, filed by Surajbai, his son Subhash and grandson Vicky at the Khargone Claims Tribunal – the first of its kind under the Madhya Pradesh Prevention and Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act which came into force in January this year.

While Surajbai’s son Subhash, who works in the fire department, has accused nine members of the Khan family and demanded Rs 4.80 lakh, his grandson Vicky, who works as a driver, has accused nine members and demanded a total of Rs 5.5 lakh. Khan family The Khans live about 250 meters from the gangles.

But it’s Surajbai’s claim that has grabbed attention — she accused eight people, including Kalu Khan and her 12-year-old son, of looting her house and demanded Rs 2.90 lakh.

The 34 claim cases, including gangs, are set to be heard by the Khargone Tribunal set up to recover damages in the wake of the April 10 communal clashes, offering a window into the special court’s proceedings — defined by summary trials and the lack of a criminal investigation process for convictions.

The tribunal has so far issued notices to 270 accused and passed orders in six out of 34 cases.

Pointing to a loophole in the law that allows juveniles to be tried for a civil offense when, according to the IPC, they can only be tried by a juvenile board, Ravindra Chhabra, a senior advocate practicing at the Madhya Pradesh High Court, said that although a juvenile can be tried under the Code of Civil Procedure can and a notice can be issued in the name of the child, “After the notice is issued, once it is established that the defendant is a minor, the court should appoint a guardian or guardian. For the purpose of litigation”.

Sivakumar Mishra, retired district court judge who presided over the two-member tribunal bench, however said, “While filing a claim, it cannot be made mandatory for the claimant to mention the age of the accused as it may not always be possible. Determining the age of a person by looking at him is .

Sajid Pathan, who represented the accused at the tribunal, pointed out another “loophole” – though the FIR filed by Surajbai after the riots did not mention Kalu or his son, while testifying at the tribunal, Surajbai said he had seen the two in his house besides others. by looting

After a recovery notice of Rs 2.90 lakh was issued on the plea of ​​12-year-old Surajbai, Kalu moved the Indore High Court to have his son’s name removed from the tribunal’s proceedings. However, the High Court rejected their plea.

At their one-room house, Kalu’s wife Ranu said when the police came to serve notice on her family members, Surajbai’s daughter-in-law Sunita was with them. “I told Sunita that my son and husband had nothing to do with the riots. He then told me, ‘Name those who did this and we will drop their names’.

Other cases in the tribunal

One of the cases in which the tribunal ordered was that Sawant Mukesh, a resident of Anand Nagar, Khargone, was awarded Rs 50,000 for burn injuries.

Mukesh demanded Rs 1 lakh compensation for allegedly assaulting his neighbors Iqbal and Nisar. He claimed Rs 10,000 for damage to two doors of his house.

Advocate Rajesh Joshi, who defended Iqbal and Nisar at the tribunal, said, “The Claims Tribunal was constituted to decide compensation in civil matters and specifically for damages to private or public property and not for bodily injury. An injury is a criminal case which should be heard in a Sessions Court and not in a Claims Tribunal.”

In the case of another petitioner, Mukhtiar Khan, the court had to drop the case against three of the 16 people he accused of damaging his house as they were “non-existent”.

Advocate Sudhir Kulkarni, who is contesting Mukhtiar’s claim, held the court responsible for sending notices to people who do not exist. “It’s ridiculous, but the courts don’t have the resources to verify claims before accepting them.”

“All cases related to the riots have now reached the sessions court and a decision is far from being reached, but at the same time the tribunal is deciding the matter in three months, how are they equipped to do that?” said Rajendra Joshi, who is defending some Muslim accused in the tribunal.

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