The Supreme Court today refused to pass a blanket order banning demolitions across states, stressing that such a move will curtail the rights of municipal authorities.
The court is hearing a petition by Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against demolition exercises that, it has alleged, specifically targeted members of the minority community.
The Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government in this connection. In its reply to the court, the state government has maintained that the demolition drives were routine exercises to remove encroachment.
The court has now sought the replies of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments where recent demolitions have drawn criticism.
Advocates Dushyant Dave and CU Singh, appearing for Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, said authorities are “picking and choosing” and demolishing homes of people from the “other community”.
The petitioner said “taking advantage” of municipal corporations to demolish homes is not right. The petitioner’s counsel also said there is a “pattern of demolitions” across the country “after every communal incident”. “This is against the structure of democracy, not good for us as a society,” they said.
Responding to the arguments, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Senior Advocate Harish Salve said there is no “other community” as pointed out by the petitioner and “all communities are Indian communities”.
They stressed that there is no connection between the demolitions and rioting, and that the anti-encroachment exercises started long before the riots. They said “unnecessary sensational hype” must not be created.
Urging the court to not impose a blanket ban on demolitions, they said the “rule of law needs to be followed”. “Not every riot accused can be protected from demolitions under a blanket order,” the UP government counsel said.
The Uttar Pradesh government had come under criticism after it razed the home of Javed Mohammed, the main accused in the violence in Prayagraj over suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s remarks on Prophet Muhammad.
The bulldozer rolled in hours after a notice was stuck outside the local politician’s house, claiming illegal construction.
While the government has claimed that Mr Mohammed had not replied to earlier notices, the family has said they did not receive any.
The state has stressed that the demolitions in Uttar Pradesh were lawful and action against rioters is being taken under separate laws.