The BJP-ruled North Delhi Municipal Corporation on Wednesday demolished several buildings in Jahangirpuri, where communal violence broke out a few days ago, despite the Supreme Court’s order. After immediate arguments, the SC had ordered a stay on the demolition till it examines the validity of the NDMC’s claim that the structures were illegal encroachments. However, the NDMC continued for over an hour following the court’s order.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave told a bench led by CJI NV Ramana that the demolition drive was extended from the scheduled time of 2 pm to morning, and began without any notice. He said the law requires that a notice of 5-15 days be given to those affected to allow them to appeal to a superior authority against any adverse decision. “It is completely unconstitutional,” he said.
The CJI immediately directed the status quo to be maintained and listed a petition against such summary demolition for hearing on Thursday. A similar petition in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh was also mentioned by senior advocate Kapil Sibal. “It has implications across India,” Sibal said. The bench said that it will also hear the petition on Thursday.
The residents of Jahangirpuri alleged that the NDMC carried on the demolition drive well when electronic media technically circulated the SC order that the demolitionists had not received formal intimation. Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan had to take up the issue again in the Supreme Court later in the day. Dave said it was sad that the campaign continued despite the Supreme Court order.
The CJI then directed the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to ensure that the order is formally conveyed to the authorities. By the time the operation was halted, several shops, which were alleged to have been encroached upon, were demolished.
BJP-ruled UP and Madhya Pradesh have launched demolition drives against those who protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act on the charge. The BJP had made bulldozers one of its themes during the UP elections, claiming that the state government has a policy of ‘zero tolerance towards law breakers’. However, civil rights campaigners have criticized the demolition on the grounds that the state cannot act as judge, jury and executioner. He has alleged that the procedures established under the law on demolition have been ignored.
Clashes erupted after a Shoba Yatra by the VHP around a mosque on Hanuman Jayanti in Jahangirpuri last Saturday. Four days after the struggle, a demolition drive was launched against the encroachment. The Delhi Police, which reports to the Union Home Ministry, had over 400 personnel to oversee the corporation’s “anti-encroachment operation”. The Delhi Police later said that the post-demolition situation was under control and peaceful. Special CP Deepender Pathak said, “We are here to provide support and security to the civic agency.” He said that NDMC called 400 personnel from Delhi Police to maintain law and order during the operation. NDMC Mayor Raja Iqbal Singh claimed that the operation was stopped as soon as the order was received. “We will abide by the order of the Supreme Court. We have stopped the operation. The civic machinery there is now only removing garbage and other things from the roads,” Singh said. A case pending before a court usually prompts the authorities to wait for a court order before commencing the demolition. Police said they have arrested 25 suspects so far and have imposed stringent sections under the National Security Act against the five accused in the aftermath of Saturday’s violence. Eight policemen and a local resident were injured in the clashes.
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