SC says demolitions can’t be ‘retaliatory’, gives 3 days for UP govt to respond

Taking up a petition filed against the officials involved in the illegal demolition of houses, the SC vacation bench told the UP government that everything should look fair..."we expect the authorities to act only in accordance with law. Ensure safety so that nothing untoward happens"

A demolition drive at Prayagraj: The SC did not issue a stay on the demolitions but they told the government to act in accordance with the law

The Uttar Pradesh government, which has been demolishing the houses of protestors agitating against the controversial comments on Prophet Muhammed, was pulled up by the  Supreme Court on Thursday (June 16) which told the state government that “demolitions have to be in accordance with the law, they cannot be retaliatory”.

Stating that “everything should be fair” and authorities should strictly follow due procedure under the law, the Supreme Court gave the Uttar Pradesh government and its authorities three days to respond to pleas alleging that houses of those accused in last week’s violence were illegally demolished.

However, the SC did not issue a stay on the demolitions, saying it cannot stay demolitions and that it can only say to the government to act in accordance with the law.

“Everything should look fair…we expect the authorities to act only in accordance with law. Ensure safety so that nothing untoward happens,” said the judges. The SC was taking up the case of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, an organisation, which had filed a petition against officials involved in the “illegal” demolition of houses.

The petition further urged the court to ensure the UP government does not demolish more houses without following the due process of law.

Also read: Complete breakdown of law and order: Chidambaram on demolitions

UP had recently torn down properties of those accused of participating in violent protests in Kanpur, Prayagraj and Saharanpur. The petitioners said that the demolitions were “shocking and appalling” and that notices were served after houses were razed.

CU Singh, the petitioner’s lawyer told the court that adequate notices are a must before demolition. “What is being done is unconstitutional and shocking. It is being done by targeting a community,” he said, adding that a  notice of at least 15 to 40 days was a must before any demolition, according to UP laws.

Justice AS Bopanna said that the respondents, in this case, the UP government will get time for their objections. But that the safety of the affected parties should be ensured meanwhile. “Let’s be clear, they’re also a part of society, ultimately, when someone has a grievance, they have a right to have it addressed,” said Justice Bopanna.

Meanwhile, Harish Salve, the lawyer for the UP administration denied that the due course of law was not followed for demolitions. He blamed the media for linking the demolitions with political statements unnecessarily.

Also read: Eminent jurists write to SC to take action on ‘clampdown of fundamental rights in UP’

Fearing that more demolitions could be carried out over the weekend, the petitioners requested the SC for interim protection. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the UP government, however, said that petitioners relied on newspaper reports and they rely on official records.

“If the house has been constructed without following any laws at all then they can’t say that they should not even be touched,” Mehta argued, adding that the petitions were based on “misconceptions and politics”.

The vacation bench of Justices Bopanna and Vikram Nath took up the case two days after some former judges and senior advocates wrote to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana.

“The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted lead to a clear conclusion that demolitions are a form of collective extra judicial punishment,” the letter stated, and they requested him to take note of the alleged incidents of bulldozing of homes and police action on those protesting against the comments on the Prophet.

Also read: Bulldozer politics dents the rule of law

 

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