UP’s bulldozer action is ‘mockery of Constitution’, retired judges and advocates write to CJI
They urged NV Ramana to take suo motu cognisance of the Adityanath government’s move, saying ‘the mettle of the judiciary is tested in such critical times’.
A group of retired judges and senior advocates on Tuesday wrote to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, urging him to take suo motu cognisance of the demolition of the properties of those who protested in Uttar Pradesh against the remarks about Prophet Muhammad by Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons.
The letter, signed by six former Supreme Court and High Court judges along with six lawyers, also asked the chief justice to take note of the “violence and repression” by the state authorities against citizens.
Nupur Sharma’s disparaging comments against the Prophet, made during a debate on the Times Now television channel on May 26, had sparked violent protests in several parts of India last week. Naveen Jindal, who was media head of the BJP’s Delhi unit, had posted a tweet on June 1 about the Prophet.
Outrage in India against Sharma and Jindal gained fresh momentum after a number of Gulf countries summoned diplomats to protest against their remarks.
In Uttar Pradesh alone, 333 persons have been arrested from eight districts for participating in the demonstrations.
On June 11, the Kanpur and Saharanpur administrations demolished parts of the properties of three persons accused of participating in protests. On Sunday, the Prayagraj administration demolished activist Javed Mohammed’s home, a day after he was arrested for allegedly conspiring to carry out violent protests in the city.
In their letter on Tuesday, the retired judges and advocates raised objections to the manner in which the Uttar Pradesh Police could be seen detaining protestors and carrying out demolition of their properties.
“Such a brutal clampdown by a ruling administration is an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law and a violation of the rights of citizens, and makes a mockery of the Constitution and fundamental rights guaranteed by the state,” the signatories said. “The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted lead to the clear conclusion that demolitions are a form of collective extra judicial punishment, attributable to a state policy which is illegal.”
While there are no provisions under Indian law to demolish the home of anyone accused of a crime, this pattern has been regularly observed across BJP-ruled states.
Former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah, senior advocates Indira Jaising, Sriram Panchu, CU Singh, Anand Grover and Prashant Bhushan are among the signatories who told Ramana that videos showing protestors from the Muslim community being chased and beaten by the police are circulating on social media, thus “shaking the conscience of the nation”.
Instead of giving protestors an opportunity of being heard, the Uttar Pradesh administration sanctioned taking violent action against them, the letter said.
The signatories also pointed out that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had “exhorted officials to take such action so it sets an example” for those who take law into their hands in the future.
“He [the chief minister] has further directed that the National Security Act, 1980, and the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Prevention Act, 1986, be invoked against those found guilty of unlawful protests,” the signatories stated. “It is these remarks that have emboldened the police to brutally and unlawfully torture protestors.”
The signatories urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the deteriorating situation of law and order in Uttar Pradesh.
“We hope and trust the Supreme Court will rise to the occasion and not let the citizens and the Constitution down at this critical juncture,” it said.
The letter said “the mettle of the judiciary is tested in such critical times” and cited examples of when the Supreme Court took suo motu action, such as when migrant workers were forced to walk home during the 2020 Covid-induced lockdown and the Pegasus spyware case.