A day after bulldozers were sent to Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, where communal violence had erupted on Saturday, the Supreme Court said it would take a “serious view” of demolitions that took place after its order pausing them. There will be no demolitions in Jahangirpuri until further orders, the court said, issuing notice to the civic body.
“We will take a serious view of all demolitions that took place after the Supreme Court decision was communicated to the Mayor,” the Supreme Court said, adding that it would take up the case after two weeks.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court was told that a “particular section of society is being targeted”.
Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave, representing the Jahangirpuri petitioners, argued that after a complaint by the Delhi BJP chief to the Mayor of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, an overnight decision was taken to remove encroachments from the violence-hit area and the drive was launched without notice.
The civic body took the BJP leader’s wish “as their command”, the lawyer charged.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court halted the anti-encroachment drive after taking note of a petition by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that buildings of Muslim riot-accused were being razed in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
But the bulldozers did not stop and several shops and structures outside a mosque were razed before a second intervention, by Chief Justice NV Ramana, finally ended the drive.
This was an “extraordinarily important issue” for the country, Mr Dave said, alleging that these demolition drives were targeting one community after communal clashes.
The judges asked: “It only pertains to an area. What national importance?”
Mr Dave replied: “It’s in every riot-affected area. Nothing like this happened in 1984 or 2002. Why suddenly? Delhi has an Act on encroachments. A particular section of the society is being targeted. This is the warning that our constitutional framers gave us.”
He accused the civic agency of targeting the poor and helpless without warning. “Reasonable opportunity is to be given. You have destroyed homes now. Who is responsible? You will not touch Sainik Farms and South Delhi where every other home would be unauthorised but you will come to demolish homes of poor people,” Mr Dave said.
“There are demolitions across India. Muslims are being targeted. Especially during Ram Navami days these things are happening. Then houses of only one community are demolished,” senior lawyer Kapil Sibal said, representing the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind.
“Remarks have been made by a Minister in Madhya Pradesh that if Muslims carry out such attacks, then they should not expect justice. People who were not even in the area on day of incidence to their house was demolished,” Mr Sibal said, referring to the demolitions in Khargone, where clashes erupted during a Ram Navami procession.
The judges asked whether no Hindu properties were demolished at Jahangirpuri on Wednesday.
“Encroachments are not limited to one community. You cannot connect it to just one community. This is not a forum for politics. We want your lordship to tell the world that rule of law prevails in this country. We want stay on demolitions,” Mr Sibal said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, speaking on behalf of the civic authorities, said yesterday’s drive was not the first in Jahangirpuri this year.
“As far as Jahangirpuri is concerned, the drive to remove what was on footpaths has been done several times since January. 19 April was the fifth drive this year,” he said.