Incredible scenes played out in the courtroom of the Chief Justice of Karnataka on Wednesday (January 22) when a petition came up challenging the recent demolition of over 100 huts belonging to migrant workers on the suspicion that they were illegal Bangladeshis.
Lawyers representing both the police and the civic authority, Bruhat Bengaluru Magahanagara Palike (BBMP), pointed to each other when Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka sought to know who ordered the demolition.
Making his displeasure known, the judge asked, “Which invisible force carried out the demolition?” To this, the lawyer representing the petitioners said, “The invisible force was dressed in khaki (police).”
The demolition exercise, which started late on Saturday night and continued into Sunday, was prompted by a sting video aired by a local TV channel and a WhatsApp video that has been doing the rounds for the last few weeks. The videos claimed that illegal Bangladeshis were hiding in Kariyammana Agrahara.
The court was hearing a writ petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties which sought an order restraining the police and BBMP officials from carrying out further demolitions.
Opening the proceedings, lawyer for PUCL, Clifton Rozario presented newspaper reports to the court showing that the BBMP commissioner had called the demolition exercise unauthorised. To this, the police lawyer said that the department got involved because the BBMP had asked for had been asked to join in the eviction drive by the BBMP.
However, Rozario pointed out that the police had issued an eviction notice to the workers on January 11 whereas the BBMP issued a notice to the resident only on January 18. He told the court that the police couldn’t have possibly acted at the behest of the BBMP.
The judge then came down heavily on the police and said that the force should not “hide behind the BBMP.”
Granting the petitioners relief from further demolitions, the court ordered the police and the BBMP to file its response by January 30. The departments have been asked to submit all documents relating to the case which led to the eviction orders.
The police has also been asked to explain the legal provisions under which they carried out the demolition and provide the source of the information that the people being evicted were illegal migrants.
The court also ordered the police commissioner to conduct an investigation to ascertain who ordered the demolition.