NDMC Bulldozers Stop Jahangirpuri Demolition Drive After Flouting SC Order
Bulldozers of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) stopped the demolition drive in northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, which was rocked by communal violence on Hanuman Jayanti on April 16, on Wednesday after the Supreme Court (SC) ordered a status quo but not before demolishing structures near the mosque that was the epicentre of the clashes.
“I will talk to the law officer. Encroachments on public roads and government land are being removed. Such exercises have been held earlier too. But people keep coming back and encroaching land,” municipal commissioner Sanjay Goel said adding that the demolition will continue as he is unaware of any order to halt the drive, The Indian Express reported.
Moments later, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana directed the SC Registry to immediately communicate the status quo order to the civic body, LiveLaw.in reported.
The CJI issued the direction to the SC secretary general after senior advocate Dushyant Dave mentioned that the demolition drive was going on despite the SC order. “They say order is not communicated. Please communicate, ask secretary general,” Dave urged the CJI. “It was widely reported in media immediately. This is not right! We are in rule of law society.”
Subsequently, the CJI directed the court staff to take down the contact numbers of the NDMC mayor, commissioner and Delhi police commissioner from Dave. “Communicate it (the order) through secretary general or registrar General immediately,” the CJI said.
“It’ll be too late otherwise,” Dave said. “We are communicating,” the CJI assured. “I’m feeling sad. Despite the world knowing that this court passed orders, they are not stopping. It sends a wrong message,” Dave expressed anguish.
Earlier in the day, the apex court halted the demolition drive after senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Kapil Sibal, PV Surendranath and Prashant Bhushan mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of India NV Ramana terming the drive illegal.
“Something serious requires your immediate intervention. This is about a completely unconstitutional and illegal demolition which has been ordered in Jahangirpuri area, where riots took place last week. No notice has been served. There is a provision for appeal under the Municipal Corporation Act. We have filed a provisional application (before SC). It was supposed to start at 2 pm but they started the demolition today at 9 AM knowing that we will mention,” Dave submitted, LiveLaw.in reported.
“Maintain status quo. List before appropriate Bench tomorrow,” the CJI ordered.
Sibal also mentioned the petition filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the alleged actions taken by authorities in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat against accused. The plea seeks a declaration that the properties of accused cannot be demolished as a punitive measure as such a punishment is unknown to criminal law.
“There’s another petition which applies all over India that should be listed along with it,” Sibal submitted. “Alright,” the CJI agreed.
Around 9 am, the civic body’s bulldozers started demolishing shops and other structures amid heavy police presence after Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party BJP chief Adesh Gupta asked the mayor to identify illegal structures constructed by “rioters” and demolish them.
“As you are aware, on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, there was a shobha yatra taken out in Jahangirpuri. Some anti-social elements and rioters pelted it with stones,” Gupta wrote in a letter addressed to the mayor. “These anti-social elements and rioters have the support of local AAP MLA and councillor and as a result, these people have done large-scale encroachment,” he alleged. “Therefore, illegal encroachment done by these rioters should be identified and there should be bulldozers run over it.”
The timing of the order, three days after the riot, is not a mere coincidence despite Goel terming the demolition as a “routine exercise”. To prevent any untoward incident during the demolition, the corporation had sought a force of, at least, 400 police personnel on Tuesday.
Nine people, including eight policemen, were injured in the clash on Saturday when two groups threw stones at each other amid firing. Out of the 25 people arrested so far, five of them were held under the National Security Act, which allows detention up to a year without any charge.
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