Says, demolitions can’t happen as retaliatory action
The Supreme Court (SC) Thursday said that demolitions can only be carried out in accordance with the law, and not as a retaliatory exercise by the state.
It made the observation while issuing notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on petitions challenging bulldozer action at Kanpur and Prayagraj in the aftermath of violence triggered by former BJP spokespersons’ remarks on Prophet Muhammad.
However, the bench declined the applicants’ plea to halt the demolition drive.
The procedure must be followed so that a sense prevails among citizens that the rule of law prevails in the country, a vacation bench of justices AS Bopanna and Vikram Nath said.
The court was hearing applications filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind — an organisation of Islamic scholars — seeking directions to the state to stop unauthorised demolitions.
These fresh applications are part of a writ petition filed by the Jamiat in April, when the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had razed alleged encroachment in the riot-hit Jahangirpuri area of the national capital.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the UP government, sought to defend the demolitions, contending that they were carried out in accordance with the law after giving prior notice. He was joined by senior advocate Harish Salve, who made an online appearance to argue the matter.
Representing the authorities that conducted the demolition drive, Salve denied the petitioners’ allegation that the demolitions violated the rule of law.
However, the bench orally informed both parties that while it cannot “say no to demolitions”, the same must be done according to procedure.
“Everything should look fair, we expect the authorities to act only in accordance with law,” the court said, while granting the UP government three days to explain whether the recent demolitions were in compliance with procedural and municipal laws.
The bench stressed on authorities following the rule of law, especially in the wake of media reports suggesting that the demolitions were carried out on a weekend when courts are shut so that the affected parties cannot avail any legal remedy.
In its writ petition, the Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind cited other instances of similar demolition drives carried out earlier in UP and Madhya Pradesh where, it alleged, houses of Muslims accused of involvement in some sort of crime, particularly riots, were razed.
It had then sought a blanket order from the court to stop all demolition drives, which the SC had turned down. However, the apex court had issued notices on the petition.