The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay demolitions across states, saying that it cannot pass an “omnibus order” to prevent the authorities from taking action against unauthorised constructions, Live Law reported.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai and PS Narasimha said that “rule of law has to be followed” in response to petitions filed by Muslim organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolition exercises.
In its pleas, the Muslim body had argued that properties cannot be demolished without following due process and such exercises should be done only after issuing adequate notice.
In June, Uttar Pradesh authorities razed the houses of those who allegedly protested against the disparaging remarks made by two former Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons about Prophet Muhammad.
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 to oppose the comments about the Prophet.
On June 11, the Kanpur and Saharanpur administrations demolished parts of the properties of three persons accused of participating in protests.
Members of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind have demanded action against the officials responsible for demolishing houses in Uttar Pradesh.
According to its petition, the authorities in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are resorting to “bulldozer action” to demolish structures of persons accused in riot cases, Live Law reported.
The petitioners have also accused the governments of “selective action” against the accused persons.
“Demolition of houses merely because somebody is accused in a crime is not acceptable in our society,” Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioners, told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Senior Advocate CU Singh, also representing the petitioners, said that despite the Supreme Court’s order to maintain a status quo on demolitions in North Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, the same exercise was carried out in other cities.
“We have given numerous cases, where police officers announcing demolition and demolishing the houses of the accused,” Singh said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, took objection to the arguments raised by the petitioners, Live Law reported.
He told the bench that the individuals affected by the demolitions have already approached the High Courts. Therefore, he argued that the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind petitions are creating a “sensationalising hype unnecessarily”.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, argued that the court cannot stay demolitions only because the property that is to be razed belongs to an individual accused in a case, Live Law reported.
Arguments made by the petitioners were wobbly, he added, Bar and Bench reported.
Singh said that the Kanpur and Saharanpur superintendents of police had announced that the houses of the accused persons will be demolished.
“There is a pick and choose against the other community,” Dave added. “The entire Sainik Farm is illegal. Nobody has touched it in 50 years. Look at the illegal farm houses in Delhi. No action taken. Selective action is taken.”
The Supreme Court asked all the parties to complete pleadings in the matter by August 8.
The matter was listed for hearing next on August 10.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had previously filed a plea, challenging the Jahangirpuri demolitions that took place in Delhi on April 21. The Supreme Court had halted the demolition drive by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and ordered it to maintain the status quo on the exercise.
The BJP-controlled North Delhi Municipal Corporation had 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.