The Gauhati High Court on Thursday pulled up the police for demolishing the homes of the five men accused of setting fire to the Batadrava Police Station in Assam Nagaon’s district, reported The Hindu.
The High Court said that using excavators and bulldozers to demolish houses “in the guise of investigation” was not provided in any criminal law.
The police station was torched by a mob on May 21 a day after a fish trader, Safikul Islam, was allegedly detained. Islam’s family had alleged that the police demanded Rs 10,000 and a duck as a bribe to release him. “We could only afford a duck, so they [police] beat him to death,” Islam’s wife had said.
A day later, the police had demolished the homes of the accused men. There are no provisions under Indian law to demolish the home of anyone accused of a crime but this pattern has been regularly observed across Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states.
On Thursday, Chief Justice RM Chhaya told the government’s counsel that an agency needs permission to demolish a homes even if a serious matter is being investigated.
“Will you dig up my courtroom in the name of the investigation if you say something is under the court?” he asked. “It seems nobody in this country is safe.”
The chief justice added that even British politician Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, who created a penal code during the colonial rule, would not have thought of what the police did without any warrant.
On a lighter note, the chief justice said that even Bollywood films are careful enough to show actors handing notices or demolition orders before bulldozers are used.
“Such things [bulldozing as punishment] happen only in Rohit Shetty movies,” Chhaya said. “Send your SP’s story to director Rohit Shetty.”
Leena Doley was the superintendent of police of the Nagaon district when the houses were demolished.
The police had defended the demolition drive, saying that it was done after allegations came to light that those who attacked the police station had encroached on the land. “Even if they had documents, they were forged,” the police had said.
The man accused in the case, Ashikul Islam, had died in a road accident after he allegedly tried to escape police custody on May 30.