PIL in SC seeks relief against illegal demolitions of properties of those accused in riots

JAMIAT Ulama-I-Hind, a leading organization of Islamic scholars belonging to the Deobandi school of thought in India, has petitioned the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking relief against the demolition of commercial and residential buildings using de as punitive measures against those accused of being involved in riots. Such an act, the petition claims, goes against the right of an accused to have a fair trial. The petition avers that governments’ support for such a measure as punishment undermines the criminal justice system, including the role of the courts.

The petition was filed in the aftermath of the demolition of homes belonging to Muslims in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh and Khambat, Gujarat after riots broke out there between the Hindu and Mulsim communities during the Ram Navami procession last week.

The petition also seeks directions for ministers, legislators and anybody unconnected with the criminal investigation to be restrained from apportioning criminal responsibility regarding criminal action publicly or through any official communication until a determination by a criminal court.

“Such acts by the state governments show a complete disregard for the rights of accused persons. The authorities have been acting in violation of the accused persons’ right to fair trial and condemning them unheard, thus acting against the legal maxim – ‘audi alteram partem’ – which forms an integral part of our legal system. Fastening guilt upon persons without any investigation and adjudication by a court thereafter in itself violates the rights of the alleged wrongdoers, and demolition of properties of such persons is even more alarming as the administration, acting as an executor, has been giving punishments that are not even prescribed for the offences allegedly committed by the targeted persons”, the petition reads.

The plea highlights that persons who have been victims of such demolition drives carried out by the authorities in different states, to a great extent, come from religious and caste minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis.

“The Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh has even stated, “If Muslims carry out such attacks, then they should not expect justice”. Employing these illegal measures mostly against the marginalised and minority groups is a direct attack on the secular fabric, which forms part of the basic structure of our Constitution, as has been held by this Hon’ble Court on numerous occasions. Such persons/ victims have resultantly been deprived of their fundamental right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 14, as also their right under Article 15 against discrimination for belonging to a particular religious or caste group”, the petition states.

It asserts that acts of illegal demolition of properties also violate the constitutional right of affected persons to enjoy peaceful possession of their properties guaranteed under Article 300.

“The fact that at least one of the demolished property was built under the Central Government’s initiative called “Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana” to provide affordable housing to the economically weaker sections of the society proves the falsity of the justification being given in such incidents of the properties being built illegally. They also tend to undermine the authority of the Central Government. Furthermore, these acts have been widely covered by the international media and, therefore, bring disrepute to the country at the international stage”, the plea says.

Besides, the petitioner contends that the right to housing/shelter is a fundamental right, as has been held by the Supreme Court on numerous occasions, and forms an integral part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

This right of the citizens, the petitioner asserts, cannot be taken away or infringed upon without following the due process of law. Hence, the demolition of properties by the authorities in various states as a punitive measure for alleged crimes is also in violation of this fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution.

The petition has been filed through Advocate-on-Record Kabir Dixit, and drawn by advocates Sarim Naved, Anshu Yadav and Kamran Javed.

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