SC orders status quo on anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri
The Supreme Court on Thursday extended its order directing maintenance of the status quo on the razing of buildings in the violence-hit Jahangirpuri area of the national capital and said it would take a "serious view" of the demolition that was carried out even after its order was communicated to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) mayor.
The apex court, which had to intervene twice on Wednesday before the demolition drive was finally halted, issued notice to the Centre and others on the plea filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that claimed that buildings of Muslim riots accused were razed. The top court in its order said, issue notice, returnable on May 9, 2022. Pleading to be completed in the meanwhile. Additional affidavit/documents, if any, may be filed after serving the same to the other side before the next date of hearing. Status Quo, as exists today (Thursday), shall be maintained, until further orders.
The hearing saw CPM leader Brinda Karat also moving to the top court complaining that the demolition drive was not stopped despite an order to maintain the status quo and she had to physically stand to stop the process yesterday, otherwise they would have completed the demolition of the entire Block C in Jahangirpuri.
Taking note of the submissions of senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, and others, a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai, said "we will take a serious view of the demolition which was carried out even after Supreme Court orders, and even after NDMC Mayor was informed. We will take that up later."
"We want affidavits from the petitioner on the notices if served, and counter-affidavits, and till then, status quo order will continue," it said. Dave started the arguments and said this matter raises far-reaching questions of constitutional and national importance.
Reacting to the submission, the bench asked, "What is national importance in this matter? It is only pertaining to an area." Dave replied that this is going on everywhere wherever riots are taking place. "Is it an instrument of state policy to engage in fake encounters and now bulldozers," he asked.
"They never did anything like this in 1984 and 2002 then why now. Delhi has an Act of 2011 which protected every illegal encroachment till December 2023. A particular section of society is being targeted. This is the warning constitutional framers gave us. I will read Sardar Patel and Dr. B R Ambedkar on this. They spoke about this eventuality," he said. He said the Delhi Police registered an FIR against the VHP that you carried out procession despite our objection and said we told you this is a sensitive area don't go there.
"What happened there 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 adding they carried out demolition despite the apex court's order against it. "This is not confined to Jahangirpuri and affects the social fabric of the country. If we allow this, there will be no rule of law or democracy left," he said and added, "How can a BJP leader write a letter that you demolish and NDMC demolishes it? Delhi Municipality Act has provision for notice and there is provision for appeals too."
He said that there are 731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi with 50 lakh people. "If you want to act against unauthorised constructions, you go to Sainik Farms. Come to Golf Links, where I stay and where every second home is an encroachment. You don't want to touch them, but target the poor people," Dave said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that the encroachment removal process in Jahangirpuri had begun in January this year. "This is what happens when an organisation comes here suddenly. I will show you instances when notice is not required and illegal structures were given notice. Traders have moved the high court last year and the high court had itself ordered demolition," he said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also appearing for the Muslim body, said encroachment was a serious problem throughout India and it was increasingly being associated with Muslims. "My plea is that such instances are happening in other states also. When processions are carried out and frictions occur, homes of only one community are bulldozed and the politics in power judges what happens or doesn't happen."
"Look at Madhya Pradesh where the minister says that if Muslims do such a thing they cannot expect justice. Who decides that? Who gave him that power. Somebody is in jail and his house was demolished," Sibal said and sought a stay on demolition with bulldozers. The bench said, "We are not staying demolitions in this country. Demolitions are always with a bulldozer".
Mehta said a demolition drive was held in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh last year, 88 affected parties were Hindus and 26 were Muslims. Advocate P V Surendranath, appearing for Karat, said despite the court's status quo order on Wednesday, the demolition drive was not stopped.
"I informed my client and she (Karat) informed the authorities. They did not stop and it went on till 12:45 pm. She had to physically stand to stop the process. If she had not been there, they would have completed the demolition of the entire Block C... I am not bringing in politics. This is a fact, ," he said. A juice shop owner Ganesh Gupta also moved the court seeking compensation for the demolition of his shop, and said the shop was destroyed without prior notice.