A division bench of the Karnataka High Court Monday came down heavily on the Bengaluru Police for facilitating the eviction of people living on a private property on the city outskirts last month after labelling them as illegal Bangladeshis without investigation. A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar directed the state government to provide a plan to rehabilitate those who were evicted.
Several people living in tenements on a private property in Bellandur area were evicted through a demolition drive carried out on January 12, 18 and 19 by the authorities on the basis of a police notice on January 11 about the presence of illegal immigrants. Around 200 sheds on the property, which housed around 5,000 people, were demolished.
A petition was filed in court by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties on behalf of the affected migrant workers — several of whom were from different parts of Karnataka.
“It is submitted that the residents of the property in question are not from Bangladesh but in fact are extremely poor migrant families, having migrated from districts of North Karnataka, including Raichur, Hubli and Dharwad and other states, including Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, and Bihar,” the petition stated. “It appears that the bogey of Bangladeshi is being used to evict the innocent poor.”
The court had last week sought records from the police and city corporation.
The court specifically asked the police to state the basis on which a conclusion was drawn that “illegal Bangladeshi migrants have been provided with shelter” in “the illegal sheds put up on the subject land”.
While the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike submitted an affidavit that it was not involved in ordering the demolition, the police reported that residents of the tenements had voluntarily vacated their sheds after the property’s owner asked them to leave.
However, the police admitted that a notice was issued by the Marathahalli police inspector stating that illegal Bangladeshis were living on the property. Police claimed that the notice was issued on the basis of complaints by residents and an alert issued by the MHA to sensitise officials about the presence of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the area.
However, the court observed that the complaints were general in nature and did not specifically point to the property. “There is nothing on file to indicate that police inspector visited the site to verify if there are Bangladeshi immigrants,” the division bench observed on Monday.
“It began with the letter of the police to the land owner to remove structures and in this situation we are of the view that the state will have to rehabilitate those who have been dispossessed,” court said in an interim order while seeking the government’s response on February 10.
The court asked the state advocate general how the police could act on mere suspicion. It said that strict action must be taken against the police inspector who issued the notice since the police had assumed the power of a civil court to issue the order.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao has frequently claimed that there a large number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Bengaluru.