‘Take action only in accordance with the law’: Supreme Court to UP govt on demolition drive

Uttar Pradesh govt. in Prayagraj demolishing houses of people accused of violence that occurred on June 3. | Picture: National Herald

The apex court granted three days to the Uttar Pradesh government to prove how demolition complied with the building laws and other mandatory procedures.

Basil Islam | TwoCircles.net 

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NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court restrained the Uttar Pradesh government from further demolition activities without following the procedure established by law. While considering an application against ‘illegal demolitions’ in the state, the court Thursday stated that the demolition could not occur without proper notice. It also has granted the state three days to prove how the recent demolition complied with the building laws and other mandatory procedures. 

Following the violent clampdown by the Uttar Pradesh government on protests triggered by now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s controversial remarks on Prophet Muhammad, the authorities razed the houses of many protesting Muslims. The demolition drive started on June 11 in Saharanpur and continued on the following days in Kanpur and Prayagraj. The petition by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind in the Supreme Court alleged that demolitions violated the rule of law and the municipal laws enacted by the state of Uttar Pradesh. 

In Prayagraj, Kanpur, and Saharanpur, the city authorities justified the demolition by claiming the measures were to clear encroachment of government lands and “campaigning against land mafia.”  The actions did not follow the due process of notices and did not provide time for the subject to raise objections, said the petition. The applicant also requested the court to take necessary steps against officials responsible for the demolition and alleged that the demolition was carried out as an extra-legal punitive measure against the protesting Muslims. 

In Prayagraj, the house of Javed Mohammad, a political leader, businessman and father of a student activist, Afreen Fatima, was demolished by the Prayagraj Development Authority on June 12. Hours before the demolition, Javed Mohammed and his family were taken into police custody. Police accused him of being the mastermind of violence that erupted following the protests against blasphemous statements by BJP spokespersons. His lawyers have also pointed out the illegality of the demolition, citing that the property does not belong to him but his wife, Parveen Fatima.

Afreen Fatima spoke to the press on June 16 and expressed her solidarity with the Muslim families affected by the demolition of houses. “No matter how much you try to scare and threaten us or trouble us by putting us in jail, we will not keep quiet or be silenced, nor are we going to disappear from this country,” she said.

Basil Islam is an independent journalist and researcher based in South India. He tweets at @baasiie