Demolitions were routine, lawful: U.P. tells Supreme Court


The Hindu

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Demolitions were routine, lawful: U.P. tells Supreme Court

The Uttar Pradesh government in the Supreme Court said the demolitions carried out in the aftermath of violence following the Prophet remarks row were not “extra legal punitive measures” targeting persons of a particular religious community linked to rioting, but routine measures taken by independent local authorities against owners of illegal structures.

In a 63-page affidavit, the Uttar Pradesh government denied having done anything “extraordinary” and stuck to its portrayal of autonomous development authorities and their bulldozers going about their duties dispassionately without fear or favour. It snubbed petitioner Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s version of “retaliatory” action as “absolutely false”.

The State took offence to Jamiat’s accusations that the constitutional high-functionaries of Uttar Pradesh, with their statements, had triggered the bulldozers. “We take strong exception to the attempt by the petitioner (Jamiat) to name the highest constitutional functionaries of the State and falsely colour the local development authorities’ lawful actions strictly complying with the UP Urban Planning and Development Act of 1973 as ‘extra legal punitive measures’ against accused persons, targeting any particular religious community,” the government stated in its affidavit filed through the Special Secretary, Uttar Pradesh Home Department.

Uttar Pradesh said rioters are already being dealt with under separate laws like UP Gangster Act, Prevention of Public Property Damages Act, UP Recovery if Damages to Public and Private Property Act, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code.

The State flatly denied allegations that local authorities were influenced by higher powers in the State, saying “development authorities are autonomous bodies that carry out enforcement proceedings independently on the facts of each case… the 1973 Act empowers them to demolish unauthorised/illegal constructions and encroachments”.

Dealing separately with the demolitions in Kanpur, the State explained that the structures were illegal and non-compliant constructions. Proceedings against them were initiated long before the rioting in June 2022. Proceedings in one of the two cases dated back to August 2020, and the other, began in February 2022. It said that in these cases the builder and the owner had admitted to them being illegal constructions.

On the razing down of the house of Javed Mohammed in Prayagraj on June 12, the court said the building was without sanction. It was unauthorisedly used as an office and the proceedings had started prior to rioting. The affidavit said the building had sported a board which said ‘Welfare Party of India’ and had “people coming and going at all times of the day and night and park their vehicles on the road, creating a constant problem in commuting”.

Besides, none of the parties affected has approached the apex court, the State pointed out. “Demolitions were a routine effort to get rid of illegal constructions,” Uttar Pradesh government said.

On June 16, the Supreme Court had told the Uttar Pradesh government that demolitions can happen only in accordance with the provisions of the law and cannot be retaliatory.

“Ultimately, the rule of law should prevail… any action by you should be in accordance with the law,” the court had addressed the Uttar Pradesh government.

While issuing formal notice to the State, the court had indicated its inclination to examine the legal question whether the Uttar Pradesh government had followed due process of law before demolishing the properties in places like Kanpur and Prayagraj.

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