Lawful demolitions unrelated to protests: The Supreme Court is next

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The Uttar Pradesh government has told the Supreme Court that the action was “carried out by the Kanpur Development Authority and Prayagraj Development Authority strictly in accordance with the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1972” and “had no relation to the riots,” refuting claims that private properties in the state were illegally demolished after violent protests over comments about the Prophet.

“The petitioner has attempted to give a mala fide colour to lawful action taken by the local development authorities, as per procedure established by law, by cherry-picking one-sided media reporting of a few incidents and extrapolating sweeping allegations from the same against the state,” the state government said in an affidavit filed in response to a complaint by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolitions. It is asserted that the same is entirely false and deceptive. As part of their usual effort against unauthorized/illegal constructions, in compliance with the 1972 Act, the local development authorities, who are statutory autonomous organisations independent of the state administration, carried out the aforementioned demolitions.

The UP government said that the home owners of two buildings that were demolished in Kanpur “confessed” that the construction was illegal.

In order to support its claim that the demolitions were directed towards people purportedly participated in the protests, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has cited statements made by several governmental authorities.

Security guards stand guard as the home of Javed Ahmed, a local politician who is suspected of being the main organiser of violent rallies against remarks made by now-suspended BJP leaders about the Prophet Muhammad, is demolished in Prayagraj on Sunday, June 12, 2022. (PTI Image)
The UP government responded by saying that it “takes strong exception to the petitioner’s attempt to name the highest constitutional functionaries of the state and falsely colour… the local development authority’s lawful actions strictly complying with the Act as “extra legal punitive measures” against accused persons, targeting any particular religious community. All of these claims are categorically incorrect and vigorously disputed.

It listed the CRPC, IPC, UP Gangster and Anti Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, Prevention of Public Property Damages Act, and Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2020, saying that the state government was taking “severe action against the persons accused in rioting in accordance with a completely different set of statutes.”

The affidavit listed specific instances, noting that Ishtiaq Ahmed in Kanpur had “commercial construction work being undertaken on the basement, ground, first, second, and third floors of the building in a residential area of approximately 130 square metres, contrary to the plan that was sanctioned for the building on 6.7.2016.”

The document states that Ishtiaq Ahmed received a showcause notice on August 17, 2020, requiring him to stop work and show up at a hearing on August 28. But neither he nor his representative showed up for the hearing, which resulted in the issuance of “many notices” and the sealing of the property. A FIR was then filed once the seal was breached.

“The construction… was done on the property in violation of the builder’s approved double-storey residential building map. A demolition notice was delivered on April 19 of this year, giving the home owner 15 days to remove the unauthorised development. Commercial work was also done in violation of the approved residential map, it added. The affidavit stated that significant parts of the structure were destroyed on June 11 as a result of his failure to cooperate.

Iftikar Ahmed, Ishtiaq Ahmed’s son, stated in a June 17 application that “the dependent himself will remove the non-compoundable component of the construction… As a result, the builder has admitted to the illegal building offence, according to the affidavit.

Inside Editorial

The state is acting like a bulldozer on the loose, snub-nosed at the court and the rule of law.
According to the affidavit, Riyaz Ahmed was constructing a gas station in Kanpur “without any authorization or approval from the administration.” On February 18, a notice was released, and on February 23, a show-cause notice setting a hearing for March 8 was issued. The property was ordered to be shut off, and a demolition order was issued on April 20 as a result of his failure to show up for the hearing. According to the affidavit, a section of the boundary wall that was still being built was subsequently demolished on June 11.

After that, on June 17, Riyaz Ahmed filed a request to compound the property along with an affidavit “wherein the illegality and irregularity in the building has been admitted by the owner,” according to the application.

Therefore, a review of the aforementioned facts reveals that two instances of the removal of unauthorised illegal constructions in Kanpur by the Kanpur Development Authority on June 11 were a part of the ongoing demolition drive against encroachments and illegal constructions and had no relation to the riots as falsely claimed by the petitioner. The petitioner has purposefully distorted the truth in order to portray the administration in a defamatory light, and all without providing any evidence in an affidavit, according to the state government.

The state administration claimed that actions for “illegal construction without any sanction at all… (and) unlawful use of residential land as an office had been commenced prior to instances of riots” in the case of Javed Mohammed in Prayagraj.

The building’s boundary wall had a marble nameplate with the inscription “Javed M” on it, and above the boundary was a signboard reading “Welfare Party of India,” on which Mr. Javed Mohammed’s name, the state general secretary, was written.

Residents of the neighbourhood complained to the Prayagraj Development Authority on numerous occasions “with regard to the unauthorised office usage in a residential area as well as illegal constructions and encroachments qua the said property,” it stated.

On May 10, a show-cause notice was released, allowing for a personal hearing on May 24. The statement stated that the notice “was attempted to be delivered in person at the premises, but the server advised that although the family members were present at the site, they refused to take the notice.” The notice was then plastered on the building’s wall, according to the affidavit.

Javed Mohammed was ordered to remove the unauthorised building within 15 days, by June 9, but neither he nor his representative showed up for the court.

“The illegal construction was demolished by the Prayagraj Development Authority on June 12 after following due process of law, and the same had no link to incidence of riots,” it added. “It was only after proper service and providing adequate chance under the Act.”

The state administration requested that the court dismiss the petition and “hold the petitioner to terms for the abovementioned false charges without basis.”