Supreme Court seeks response from the Uttar Pradesh Government to pleas for its intervention to stop illegal demolitions

“If this court doesn’t come to the rescue of persons with a grievance, it is not proper”, the Court’s Vacation Bench has said.

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THE Supreme Court, on Thursday, called for the response from the Uttar Pradesh Government to the applications seeking its intervention to halt the demolition of private properties by the state machinery, allegedly in breach of the rule of law and municipal laws. It directed the government to file the response within three days and listed the matter for further hearing next week.

During the hearing, the court observed that the demolitions have to be in accordance with law as they cannot be retaliatory. “Everything should appear fair and that there must be a sense among the citizenry that the Rule of Law prevails”,  a vacation bench of Justices A.S. Bopanna and Vikram Nath observed.

The bench was hearing two applications filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, a leading organization of Islamic scholars belonging to the Deobandi school of thought in India, against the demolition drive in the Uttar Pradesh after riots broke out in UP in protest against the alleged blasphemous remarks made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. The two applications were filed by Jamiat in a pending main petition filed by it in April this year against the illegal demolition drive in various parts of the country, in which, the Supreme Court issued a notice in April.  In the petition which concerned the demolition drive at Delhi’s Jahanangipuri area, the Court had granted the protection of status quo.

Also read: Eminent former judges and senior advocates appeal to Supreme Court to stop illegal demolitions and arrests in Uttar Pradesh

Appearing for Jamiat, senior advocate C.U. Singh argued that taking advantage of the fact the Supreme Court issued a notice in Jamiat’s petition in April, and did not grant the status quo except for Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area, demolitions have taken place and in each instance, statements are made that this is in retaliation against stone pelters, etc. Singh added that the statements are from high officials right from the Chief Minister.

“This has not happened ever in this country, not even during the Emergency. This is appalling. Homes may be of wife, father or anyone”, Singh said. The bench sought to inquire whether there were any prior proceedings. Singh said there were no prior proceedings but they have been sought to be justified. Referring to the demolition of the home of student activist Afreen Fatima, Singh said the home was in the name of her mother who inherited it from her father.

Inquiry urged

Singh was joined by senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan who urged that some inquiry needs to be there because after the demolition state comes and says we had given notice to the affected party.

Singh cited Section 27 of the UP Urban Planning Act, which requires a notice of not less than a period of 15 days to the affected person before carrying out a demolition.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmedi sought to contend that the UP administration is cherry-picking names from the FIR to demolish the homes.  Besides, the state government is not following  due process and serving notices to the affected parties, he alleged. He added that even if a property is unauthorised, ordinarily the civic authorities will give time. He attributed malafide to the action of the Uttar Pradesh government in view of the statements made by the high-ranking officials that the homes of ‘rioters’ will be demolished.

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Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Government, questioned the locus of Jamiat to approach the Court. He said no affected party was before the court.

“Since there are allegations of violation of laws, some aggrieved party has to come forward, stating that demolition action was taken again without issuing notice, as a vendetta for its involvement in the riots”, Mehta contended.

Justice Bopanna who was heading the bench, however, remarked that it was not an adversarial petition, and ultimately rule of law has to prevail adding that not everybody whose house has been demolished can approach the court.

“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,” Justice Bopanna said.

Senior Counsel Harish Salve, for the Prayagraj Development Authority, claimed that the due process was followed and notice was served to the affected parties. He submitted that he would be bringing the facts on affidavits for the consideration of the court.