The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Uttar Pradesh government that demolitions could happen only in accordance with law, and they cannot be retaliatory. The apex court was hearing petitions that the state authorities had bulldozed houses and shops out of vengeance against the people allegedly linked to violence in the aftermath of the Prophet row.
“Ultimately, the rule of law should prevail… any action by you should be in accordance with the law,” Justice A.S. Bopanna, leading a Vacation Bench said.
However, when petitioners requested the court to direct the state to stop demolitions, the court made it clear that it cannot stay demolitions. “We can say go in accordance with the law,” the judges said.
“Everything should look fair…we expect the authorities to act only in accordance with law. Ensure safety so that nothing untoward happens,” said the judges.
An organisation called the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had approached the Supreme Court, asking it to act against officials responsible for what they called the “illegal” demolition of houses. The court should ask the UP government to ensure no demolitions took place in violation of the law, the petitions urged.
The petitioners told the Supreme Court that no notices were served and the demolitions were “shocking and appalling”. “Adequate notices are must. What is being done is unconstitutional and shocking. It is being done by targeting a community,” CU Singh, lawyer for the petitioners, said.
He said a notice of at least 15 to 40 days was a must before any demolition.
“The respondents (UP government) will get time for their objections. We should ensure their (affected parties) safety in the meantime. Let’s be clear, they’re also a part of society, ultimately, when someone has a grievance, they have a right to have it addressed,” said Justice AS Bopanna.
The UP government asserted that it had followed the law and had only razed homes that were illegally built. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the demolitions had been carried out “irrespective of community”.