The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Uttar Pradesh government not to carry out demolition activities except in accordance with the procedure established by law. It has also granted three days' time to the State, to demonstrate how the recent demolitions were in compliance with the procedural and municipal laws. "Action will only be in accordance with law," it said.
The vacation bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Vikram Nath was considering an application by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind seeking directions to the State of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that no further demolitions are carried out in the State without following due process. The applications are filed in its earlier petition against the demolition drive in Delhi's Jahangirpuri. The Court had on 21st April issued notice and directed status quo against the demolition drive launched by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) in the riot-hit Jahangirpuri area.
Advocate CU Singh, appearing for the Petitioner, submitted that taking advantage of the fact that status quo was not applicable to Uttar Pradesh, the state authorities proceeded to bulldoze the properties of persons allegedly involved in violent incidents following some objectionable and offensive remarks made by two political leaders against Prophet Mohammad.
It is alleged that demolitions are in violation of the rule of law and the municipal laws enacted by the State of Uttar Pradesh.
"Demolitions can't take place without notices, we are conscious of that," Justice Bopanna remarked at the outset.
Singh pointed out that as per Section 27 of the UP Urban Planning Act, a notice of not less than a period of 15 days is to be given to the person responsible or owner to themselves.
The UP government opposed the applications, stating that Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind has no locus in the matter. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that since there is allegation of violation of laws, some aggrieved party has to come forward, stating that demolition action was taken against it, without issuing notice, as vendetta for its involvement in the riots.
"We've to be conscious of the fact that those people whose houses are demolished may not be able to approach the Court," Justice Bopanna responded.
However, Senior Advocate Harish Salve, also appearing for the UP government, submitted, "There are three instances. In Prayagraj, notice was issued in May, much before the riots. On 25 May, demolition order was passed. And the property is valuable, so people are not those who could not approach."
He sought three days' time to put the records on affidavit.
"How do we ensure safety in meantime? We have a duty. We should ensure safety in meantime. If this court doesn't come to rescue, that wouldn't be proper. It should look fair," Justice Bopanna said orally.
He added, "We also keep seeing, we are also parts of society. We also see what's happening. Sometimes we have also formed some impressions. In someone's case of grievance, if this court doesn't come to rescue, it's not proper."
The applicant sought directions to initiate action against officials responsible for the houses demolished allegedly in violation of the rule of law and the municipal laws enacted by the State of Uttar Pradesh.
Relief in the application filed through Advocate Kabir Dixit and Advocate Sarim Naved had also sought directions to the State of Uttar Pradesh that no precipitative action be taken in Kanpur District against the residential or commercial property of any accused in any criminal proceedings as an extra-legal punitive measure.
It was stated in the application that some objectionable and offensive remarks were made by two political leaders a few days ago which led to communal tension in numerous parts of the country. Following the remarks of the two political leaders, a bandh was called for by a group of people in the district of Kanpur in protest.
It has been further stated that on the day of the protest, a scuffle broke out between the Hindu and Muslim religious community and stone pelting took place between the two communities.
The applicant had alleged that after the violence in Kanpur, a number of persons in authority have stated in the media that the properties of suspects/ accused would be confiscated and demolished, including the Chief Minister of the state who said in the media that the houses of accused persons would be razed using bulldozers.
"This is appalling. We haven't seen this in this country, not during emergency not in pre independence india. Not just person's house, houses of their parents etc are demolished. This cant be countenanced in a Republic and in a country with rule of law," Singh submitted.
The Bench inquired if any prior proceedings were held against the properties that have been demolished.
Singh responded in the negative, stating, "It's justified saying these were illegal constructions. Houses are demolished bringing in bulldozer. Highest functionaries from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and downward have said bulldozers will be employed against those who take law into their own hands."
The matter will now be heard on Tuesday, June 21.
Case Title: Jamiat Ulama I Hind & Anr v UOI & Ors| WP(Crl) 162/2022