NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the status quo with regard to the demolition exercise in violence-hit Jahangirpuri in Northwest Delhi until further orders. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai said it would take a serious view of the demolitions carried out on Wednesday even after its order on maintenance of status quo was communicated to the North MCD mayor. The bench will hear the matter after two weeks. The court also issued notice to the Centre and the North MCD on the plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind claiming that buildings of Muslim riots accused were targeted during the demolition drive.
At the outset, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said the matter raised far-reaching questions of constitutional and national importance. Pointing out that such demolition drives were being carried out wherever riots were taking place, he asked, “Is it an instrument of State policy to engage in fake encounters and now bulldozers?”
“What happened there (Jahangirpuri) is a matter of inquiry by an appropriate judicial process, but what you do is make large-scale arrests from people of only one community and start bulldozing,” Dave said. “If we allow this, there will be no rule of law or democracy left.” He also questioned as to how the civic body carried out the demolitions based on a letter from a BJP leader.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also appearing for the Muslim body, said encroachment was a serious problem throughout India and was increasingly being associated with Muslims. CPM leader Brinda Karat, through her advocate P V Surendranath, told the bench that the demolition drive was not stopped despite the court’s order on Wednesday and she had to stand in front of the bulldozers to stop the process.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that the encroachment removal process in Jahangirpuri had begun in January. He also contended that the law permitted the removal of stalls, benches, boxes, ladders etc. occupying public streets and footpaths/roads and there was no provision for serving notice for the same.
On this, the bench asked, “So, the demolition carried out was restricted to benches, boxes, and chairs?” When the SG replied that “whatever was on a public street, on the footpath was removed”, the court asked, “For stalls, boxes, ladders, and chairs, do you need a bulldozer?”
Mehta also sought to contest the allegation that such exercises were targeted against a particular community and said that during a demolition drive held in Khargone, MP, last year, 88 affected parties were Hindus and 26 were Muslims.