The Supreme Court on Thursday orally observed that Uttar Pradesh civic authorities should strictly follow legal procedures while demolishing alleged illegal structures, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Vikram Nath made the remark while hearing a petition by the Islamic organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. The organisation has sought directions to the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that no illegal demolitions take place in the state.

Since last week, civic administrations in Uttar Pradesh have been razing the houses of those who allegedly protested against disparaging remarks made by two Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons about Prophet Muhammad.

It included the house of activist Javed Mohammed in Prayagraj. He was arrested for allegedly conspiring to carry out violent protests in the city to oppose the remarks about Prophet. The Prayagraj Development Authority claimed it had given Mohammed a notice on May 10 about his illegal construction. However, Mohammed’s family denied receiving any communication.

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.

The court on Thursday said that the accused persons who fear the demolition of their properties are a part of society, and have the right to have their grievances addressed. “Respondents [Uttar Pradesh government] will get time for their objections,” the court said. “We should ensure their [accused persons’] safety in the meantime.”

The Uttar Pradesh government opposed the petition, contending that the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had no locus standi in the matter, according to Live Law. Appearing for the state government, Harish Salve said that in Prayagraj, the civic authorities had given notice to Mohammed in May, long before the violence in the city took place.

Salve on Thursday sought three days to file an affidavit stating the Uttar Pradesh government’s stand. Justice Bopanna said that the court had a duty to ensure safety in the meantime. “If this court doesn’t come to rescue, that wouldn’t be proper,” the judge said. “It should look fair.”

The court will hear the case further next week.