The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday asked whether the demolition drive in the violence-hit districts of Haryana was “an exercise of ethnic cleansing”, Live Law reported.

The High Court made the observations as it stayed the demolition drive in Nuh that was being carried out as an action against the communal violence that erupted there last week. The court took note of the matter on its own on the basis of media reports.

A division bench of Justices GS Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeevan flagged a media report quoting Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij as saying that the bulldozer action was part of the “ilaaj [treatment]” while the government investigates the communal violence.

The court said it has come to its notice that the Haryana government “is using force and is demolishing buildings on account of the fact that some riots have occurred in Gurugram and Nuh”.

The bench added: “Apparently, without any demolition orders and notices, the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law. The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State.”

The court said that the Constitution protects the citizens of the country and no demolitions can be carried out without following legal procedures. It told the Haryana government to file an affidavit stating how many buildings were demolished in Nuh and Gurugram in the past two weeks, Live Law reported.

The bench also told the government to state whether any notices were issued before the demolitions. “If any such demolition is to be carried out today, it should be stopped if the procedure is not followed as per law,” it said.

For four days since Thursday, civic authorities in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state had been demolishing allegedly illegal homes and shops, most of them belonging to Muslim migrant workers. This was after communal violence in Nuh and Gurugram left six persons dead.

The owners of several buildings that were demolished said that they did not receive any notices from civic authorities, The Indian Express reported on Monday.

However, Nuh Deputy Commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata said that notices had been sent to the owners several times earlier. He claimed it was just coincidental that the demolitions took place at a time when there were suspicions about the involvement of the property owners in the violence.