The Supreme Court on Thursday halted the demolition drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri for two weeks, Bar and Bench reported.

On Wednesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled North Delhi Municipal Corporation razed several Muslim-owned shops and properties in the area claiming that they were illegally built. The drive began four days after communal violence erupted in the locality when a Hindu religious procession armed with guns and swords passed a mosque.

The Supreme Court intervened twice to halt the demolition drive. An hour after Chief Justice NV Ramana ordered municipal authorities to stop the demolitions and maintain the “status quo”, a bulldozer razed the entrance gate and stairs leading into a mosque in Jahangirpuri.

On Thursday, senior advocate Dushyant Dave told a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai that the demolitions continued even after the Supreme Court stayed them. “This is not an issue confined to Jahangirpuri,” he added, Live Law reported. “It is the social fibre of this country. If this is allowed there will be no rule of law left.”

The judges said that they will take a “serious view of the demolitions” that continued despite the court orders. They asked authorities to maintain the “status quo” and issued notice to all the petitioners in the case.

During the hearing, the advocate asked if a bulldozer is an instrument of state policy. “All homes in Jahangirpuri are more than 30 years old and shops are 50 years old,” he told the judges. “We are in a democracy and how can this be allowed in this country?”

He stated that there are 731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi with 50 lakh inhabitants. “You pick up one colony because you [want to] target one community,” Dave said.

The advocate pointed out that no notice had been given to the residents, whose properties had been demolished. “This is precisely what we are against, law of the jungle,” he said.

Dave added that poor people were targeted in the demolition drive and said if authorities want to take action against illegal construction then they should go to upscale Sainik Farms. “Come to Golf Links [in Ghaziabad] where I stay and every second home is an encroachment somewhere, but you don’t [want to] touch it at all,” he said, Bar and Bench reported.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Muslim cleric’s body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, also challenged the Jahangirpuri demolitions saying that encroachments are not limited to “A community and B community”.

Sibal submitted that “Muslims are being associated with encroachments”, Live Law reported.

Justice Rao then asked if any Hindu properties were razed in the drive. “Some isolated instances,” Sibal responded. “When processions are carried out and frictions occur, homes of only one community are bulldozed.”

Notice issued before demolition, says NDMC

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the New Delhi Municipal Council, said that the eviction drive had started in January, PTI reported. He added that a notice was issued before the Wednesday’s demolition drive.

He also said that the allegations that only Muslims were being targeted were “factually incorrect”.

The solicitor general questioned why organisations instead of individuals harmed by the demolition drive were approaching the court.

“This is what happens when an organisation comes here suddenly,” Mehta added. “I will show you instances when notice is not required and illegal structures were given notice. Traders have moved high court last year and the high court had itself ordered demolition.”

The pleas

In its plea, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind asked for such demolitions to be stopped. The petition said that the destruction of property is not prescribed as punishment for any of the crimes that people have been accused of.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat, who arrived at the venue to stop the demolitions on Wednesday, also moved the Supreme Court saying that the demolition drive was discriminatory because only Muslim homes were targeted, Bar and Bench reported.

Municipal authorities stopped the bulldozers just outside the entrance of a Hindu temple, about 15 shops away from the mosque, and began to retreat. Citing this, Muslim residents said that they had been targeted.

A shopkeeper identified as Ganesh Gupta, whose juice stall was demolished during the exercise, also moved the court. “The petitioner submits that on the day of demolition he also tried to show all the required documents but no heed was paid to his requests and his shop was damaged,” Gupta’s plea stated.

The demolition drive in the northeastern part of the city was undertaken after Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta on Tuesday wrote a letter to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner, asking him to bulldoze the illegal constructions and encroachments of the “rioters” who had thrown stones at the Hanuman Jayanti processions.

The North Delhi corporation then scheduled a two-day “special joint encroachment removal action programme” and asked the Delhi Police to provide at least 400 personnel to maintain law and order.

The Jahangirpuri drive also started in the backdrop of demolition drives carried out by the BJP-controlled state governments in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone and Gujarat’s Anand, where bulldozers were used to raze homes and properties of those allegedly involved in the riots that broke out during Ram Navami processions on April 10.

At Thursday’s hearing, Mehta said that 88 affected parties in Khargone were Hindus, while 26 were Muslims.

Also read:

  1. Delhi demolitions: What does public glee at the state targeting Muslims mean for Indian society?
  2. Explainer: How the Jahangirpuri demolitions continued despite the Supreme Court stay