Supreme Court mulls whether it can pass omnibus directions to stop illegal demolitions across the country

The bench of justices B.R. Gavai and P.S. Narasimha, after listening to arguments on both sides, has listed the matter to be heard on August 10. 


EARLIER today, a Supreme Court division bench of Justices B.R Gavai and P.S. Narasimha contemplated whether it can pass omnibus orders to stop municipalities across the country from allegedly demolishing properties without following due process. The bench was hearing a pending writ petition filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, an Islamic organisation of scholars belonging to the Deobandi school of thought within Sunni Islam in India, seeking relief against the illegal demolitions of commercial and residential property as a punitive measure against persons accused of involvement in riots. 

It also sought directions to restrain the ‘extra-legal demolitions’ of properties in Uttar Pradesh through two applications that were previously heard by a vacation bench of Justices A.S. Bopanna and Vikram Nath. It concerned the properties belonging to the accused persons allegedly involved in the riots that erupted in Kanpur and Prayagraj in the aftermath of the objectionable remarks made by former spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Party, Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammad. 

Speaking against the ‘bulldozer culture’ taking place across the country, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioners, argued, “You must act in accordance with the law. Nobody will object to that. But to take advantage of the municipal laws and demolish homes when somebody is merely accused of crimes is something which this country cannot permit. We are a society governed by the rule of law which is a basic structure of the Constitution.”

Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh, also appearing for the petitioners, informed the court that despite the status quo maintained by this court in Jahangirpuri in Delhi, the same modus operandi was being rolled out in city after city, each time, in the immediate aftermath of some communal clash. He pointed out that these series of demolitions were driven and announced by the police, and not municipal authorities.

However, the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta told the bench that the legal procedure has been followed, and the affected parties have been issued notices whenever demolitions take place. Stating that the demolitions have nothing to do with the alleged riots, Mehta said, “Just because you are taking part in riots does not give you immunity to the otherwise illegal construction.” It should be noted that the State is yet to file a reply to the main petition.

Dave also told the Supreme Court that there is no material to suggest that other unauthorised constructions have been touched at all. “You cannot pick and choose, and only select houses belonging to certain poor people,” Dave stated.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the State, told the court that an order cannot be passed merely because the house of the accused has been demolished. However, the bench, while observing that the rule of law has to be maintained, said that omnibus directions would restrict the authorities who are entitled to act against unauthorised construction. Thus, no directions were passed. 

Mehta also expressed reservation on the maintainability of the writ petition. Dave, however, countered, stating that public interest litigation is the only remedy through which the court can be approached in this matter. 

The Leaflet