Bulldozer cases are in limbo, according to an ex-CJ of the Allahabad High Court

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The Uttar Pradesh government’s use of a bulldozer in Prayagraj on Sunday to demolish Mohammad Javed’s home is part of a familiar script: the issue is being challenged in three courts: the Supreme Court, the Allahabad High Court, and the Madhya Pradesh High Court. And the cases are stuck in limbo in all three.

The demolition of homes under the guise of claimed violations of state municipal and urban planning rules has been challenged in court as a violation of fundamental rights and due process. Notices are frequently given, but the demolition is timed to coincide with a demonstration and a specific piece is targeted, leaving the subject with no chance to appeal.

“This is completely against the law. Even if you accept for a moment that the construction was unlawful, which is how millions of Indians live, it is illegal to demolish a house on a Sunday while the residents are detained. It is a concern of rule of law, not a technical one,” former Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Govind Mathur told The Indian Express on Sunday.

These comments are noteworthy because it was Mathur who, on March 8, 2020, a Sunday, took suo motu notice of the Lucknow administration’s contentious move to plaster “name and shame” posters across the city of those accused in the CAA demonstrations. The court ruled that the government’s action was illegal and infringed on the accused’s right to privacy.

The Supreme Court imposed a stay against demolition on April 21 in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri neighbourhood, where the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) had initiated a “encroachment clearance action programme” the day after unrest erupted. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai said it would look into whether the drive was conducted in accordance with the law.

The matter is scheduled for hearing in August, despite the fact that Justice Rao has now retired.

On the same day, the Madhya Pradesh High Court denied a Public Interest Litigation attempting to stop the government from demolishing the homes of those accused of crimes, saying that “it may not be appropriate to accept this case as a PIL.”

Individuals who have been affected, on the other hand, have filed separate complaints with the HC, and their cases have yet to be heard.

Asif Khan, a 22-year-old man whose house and three stores were demolished after he was accused of kidnapping a Hindu woman, is among those who have approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The woman was a major, and she had eloped with Asif, according to a single-judge panel of the HC, which granted the interfaith couple protection.

Following the December 2020 protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Uttar Pradesh government issued notifications to demonstrators seeking damages and even auctioning their property. An interim stay has been granted by the Allahabad High Court. This happened on December 3, 2020, but since then, none of the cases have been heard in full.

In February of this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the UP government’s actions against CAA demonstrators under a 2011 Allahabad High Court order were not in accordance with due process and violated the court’s instructions.

The UP administration assured the Supreme Court that the notices would be withdrawn and issued under a new statute enacted in 2020. The new law is also being challenged in the Supreme Court, and it has yet to be heard.

The Indian Express revealed last month that a house built under the Prime Minister Awaas Yojana in Khargone, MP, was geotagged five times, with the latest payment hitting the bank only a week before it was demolished days after a communal clash, with the occupant claiming she had no time to appeal.