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No direction on demolitions, Supreme Court asks: Can we pass omnibus order?

The court was hearing a petition by Muslim outfit Jamiat-Ulema-I-Hind challenging the bulldozer action on alleged unauthorised constructions in states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It will hear the matter on August 10.

The Supreme Court Wednesday said it cannot pass an omnibus order preventing authorities from taking action. (Express/File)

ASKING HOW it could pass “an omnibus order” restraining authorities from demolishing unauthorised constructions, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to pass an interim direction in this regard.

The bench of Justices B R Gavai and P S Narasimha was hearing petitions filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which alleged illegal demolition of private properties in Uttar Pradesh following violent protests over remarks on the Prophet. Saying that the properties of those allegedly involved in the protests were targeted, the outfit has sought a stay on further demolitions.

“We all know the rule of law has to be followed, no dispute. But can we pass an omnibus order? If, under the municipal law, the construction is unauthorised, can an omnibus order be passed to restrain authorities?,” Justice Gavai asked.

Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave said the “matter is extremely serious”. He pointed to a report in The Indian Express on the demolition of the house of a person accused of a crime in Assam. “We don’t want this culture. They have to act in accordance with law… Demolition of houses merely because somebody is accused of a crime is not acceptable in our society. We are governed by the rule of law,” he said.

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Senior Advocate C U Singh, who also appeared for the petitioner, said that despite the direction for status quo in the case of demolitions in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, similar modus operandi was being followed in other places. He said while the authorities had cited three examples to claim that notices were issued beforehand, “we have given numerous cases, where police officers announce demolition and demolish the houses of the accused”.

“The problem is that police authorities are announcing that the houses of the accused will be demolished. The SP of Kanpur, the SP of Saharanpur, they are announcing,” he said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta countered that the concerned authorities had filed their replies stating that due procedure was followed and notices were issued. He said the process of taking action against unauthorised structures had started much before the protests.

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Pointing out that there were objections to the locus standi of the petitioner outfit, Mehta said individual parties affected by the state action have approached the high courts, and cautioned against “creating a sensationalising hype unnecessarily”.

Dave contended that “there is a pick and choose against other community”. He said there was no material to show that action was taken against other unauthorised properties. “The entire Sainik Farms (in Delhi) is illegal, but nobody has touched it in 50 years. Look at the illegal farmhouses in Delhi. No action taken,” he said.

Intervening, Mehta said, “There is no other community. There is only Indian community”.

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Senior Advocate Harish Salve, who appeared for the Uttar Pradesh government, said there is a powerful argument on the rule of law but the factual foundation is wobbly. “Can your lordship pass an order that a house should not be demolished merely because he is an accused,” he asked.

The bench will hear the matter next on August 10.

The Jamiat had moved the court against the demolition of private properties in Kanpur and Prayagraj, belonging to some of those accused of involvement in violent protests over the remarks on the Prophet. In its reply, the Uttar Pradesh government said the action was carried out in accordance with law.

First published on: 13-07-2022 at 12:52:22 pm
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