The Gauhati High Court has stressed that bulldozing of a house is not provided under any criminal law, even if an agency is investigating a very serious matter.
Chief Justice RM Chhaya made this observation while hearing a suo motu case taken up by the high court regarding the demolition of the house of an accused in an arson case in Nagaon district of Assam.
The Batadrava Police Station was set on fire on May 21 by a mob following the alleged custodial death of a local fish trader, Safikul Islam (39), who was picked up by police the night before.
A day later, the district authorities had demolished at least six houses, including Islam’s, using a bulldozer purportedly in search of weapons and drugs hidden beneath the structures.
“Even if a very serious matter is being investigated by an agency, bulldozing of a house is not provided under any criminal law,” Justice Chhaya observed.
Emphasising that it requires permission to even search a house, he said, “Tomorrow if you need something, you will dig up my courtroom.” The chief justice said that nobody will be safe if pulling down anyone’s house is permitted in the name of an investigation. “We are in a democratic set-up,” he added.
Pointing out that one 0.9 mm pistol was recovered by demolishing the house, as submitted in the government affidavit, Chief Justice Chayya also raised apprehension that it could have been planted.
He maintained that incidents of such bulldozing of houses are done in movies, and even in those, the search warrant is shown before the act.
The chief justice equated the bulldozing of the houses to an act in a ‘gang war’ and asked the Home department to find better ways of carrying out their investigation.
“There is a purpose why ‘law and order’ words are used together…this is not the manner in which law and order is controlled,” he said in his observation on Thursday.
The matter will be heard again on December 12.