Denying allegations of illegal demolition of private properties in the state following violent protests over remarks on the Prophet, the Uttar Pradesh government has told the Supreme Court that action was “carried out by the Kanpur Development Authority and Prayagraj Development Authority strictly in accordance with the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1972”, and “had no relation to the riots”.
In an affidavit filed in response to a plea by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolitions, the state government said: “The petitioner has attempted to give a mala fide colour to lawful action taken by the local development authorities, as per procedure established by law, by cherry-picking one-sided media reporting of a few incidents and extrapolating sweeping allegations from the same against the state… The same, it is submitted, is completely false and misleading. The said demolitions have been carried out by the local development authorities, which are statutory autonomous bodies, independent of the state administration, as per law, as part of their routine effort against unauthorised/ illegal constructions, in accordance with” the 1972 Act.
Regarding two demolitions in Kanpur, the UP government said, the house owners had “admitted” illegalities in the construction.
The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had referred to statements by some state officials to buttress its charge that the demolitions targeted those allegedly involved in the protests.
Countering this, the UP government said it “takes strong exception to the attempt by the petitioner to name the highest constitutional functionaries of the state and falsely colour… the local development authority’s lawful actions strictly complying with the Act as ‘extra legal punitive measures’ against accused persons, targeting any particular religious community. All such allegations are absolutely false and are vehemently denied”.
“In so far as taking action against the persons accused in rioting, the state government is taking stringent steps against them in accordance with a completely different set of statutes,” it said, listing the CRPC, IPC, UP Gangster and Anti Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, Prevention of Public Property Damages Act and Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2020.
Listing specific cases, the affidavit said that in the case of Ishtiaq Ahmed in Kanpur, “there was commercial construction work being undertaken on the basement, ground, first, second and third floor of the building in a residential area of about 130 square metres, contrary to the plan that was sanctioned for the building on 6.7.2016.”
According to the affidavit, Ishtiaq Ahmed was issued a showcause notice on August 17, 2020, to stop the construction and appear for a hearing on August 28. But neither he nor his representative appeared for the hearing, after which “several notices” were sent and the property was sealed. The seal was broken, following which an FIR was filed.
“The construction… was made on the site in contravention of the approved double-storey residential building map by the builder. Commercial construction was also done against the approved residential map,” it said, adding that a demolition notice was sent on April 19 this year, giving the house owner 15 days to demolish the unauthorised construction. Since he failed to comply, certain portions of the construction were demolished on June 11, said the affidavit.
In an application filed on June 17, Ishtiaq Ahmed’s son, Iftikar Ahmed, said “the non-compoundable portion of the construction will be demolished by the dependent himself… Thus the offence of illegal construction has been admitted by the builder himself,” said the affidavit.
In the case of Riyaz Ahmed in Kanpur, the affidavit said, he was undertaking work to set up a petrol pump “without any sanction or approval from the authority”. A notice was issued on February 18, followed by a showcause notice on February 23 fixing a hearing on March 8. However, as he did not appear for the hearing, the premises was ordered to be sealed and a demolition order was passed on April 20. Subsequently, a portion of the under-construction boundary wall was removed on June 11, said the affidavit.
Thereafter, Riyaz Ahmed moved an application for compounding the construction on June 17 along with an affidavit “wherein the illegality and irregularity in the building has been admitted by the owner”, it said.
“Thus a perusal of the aforesaid facts reveal that two instances of removal of unauthorised illegal constructions in Kanpur by the Kanpur Development Authority on June 11 were part of the ongoing demolition drive against encroachments and illegal constructions and had no relation to the riots as falsely alleged by the petitioner. The petitioner has deliberately obfuscated the true facts to paint a nefarious picture of alleged mala fides on the part of the administration, and that too without stating any facts on affidavit,” said the state government.
In the case of Javed Mohammed in Prayagraj, the state government said, action for “illegal construction without any sanction at all… (and) unauthorised use of residential land as an office had been initiated prior to incidents of rioting”.
“A nameplate made of marble was installed on the boundary wall of the building on which ‘Javed M’ was written, and above the boundary there was a signboard showing ‘Welfare Party of India’ on which the name of Mr Javed Mohammed, State General Secretary, was written,” said the affidavit.
The Prayagraj Development Authority received several complaints from residents of the area “in respect of the unauthorised office use in a residential area as well as illegal constructions and encroachments qua the said property,” it said.
A showcause notice was issued on May 10, granting a personal hearing on May 24. “The notice was attempted to be delivered in person at the premises; however, the server informed that though the family members were present at the site, they refused to take the notice,” said the affidavit, following which the notice was pasted on the wall of the building.
Neither Javed Mohammed nor his representative appeared for the hearing, and he was asked to demolish the unauthorised construction within 15 days, by June 9, it said.
“It was only after due service and providing adequate opportunity under the Act that the illegal construction was demolished by the Prayagraj Development Authority on June 12, after following due process of law, and the same had no relation to incident of rioting,” it said.
The state government urged the court to “hold the petitioner to terms for the said false allegations without basis”, and to dismiss the petition.