The matter pertaining to the unfortunate incident of ruthless evictions carried out by the Assam government, and the subsequent firing by the Police, was taken up by the Gauhati high court, today, on October 7. The Bench headed by Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Soumitra Saikia has directed the government to file its reply in the matter and called the clashes between the protestors and the police “a big tragedy”.
As reported by Bar & Bench, the court orally observed, “This is a big tragedy, very unfortunate. Those who are guilty, if at all, must be punished, no doubt about that. Not just in this but in one or two other incidents as well….khoon Zameen par phir gaye (Blood has been spilled)”.
The plea was allegedly filed by the Leader of Opposition in the Assam Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, against the Assam Government’s eviction programme. He was represented by senior counsel Chander Uday Singh, who brought forward three issues before the court as per a LiveLaw report. They are:
-The Police firing that took place on September 23 in Dholpur village amid an eviction drive in Assam’s Darrang district
-Regarding the eviction drive, questioning as to whether it took place as per the law and whether or not the legal provisions have been adhered to
-Mandatory compliance with the National Rehabilitation policy of 2007 (Central Government) and Assam's Resettlement framework guidelines (prepared by FREMA)
Senior counsel Singh further argued that the videos of the death of Maynal Haque made it clear that he had already been subdued by the Assam Police but he was still shot at when he was on the ground. As per some media reports, he contended in court that the State is liable to pay compensation for the ex-facie illegal actions of the police.
On the other hand, the Advocate General claimed that peaceful evictions were going on when there was an “unprovoked attack on the police”. B&B reported that the government counsel alleged that Haque had been chasing the photographer with a lathi, and “this young boy, the photographer, managed to save himself by getting to the police”. He also stated that during the protests, several police personnel were injured and hospitalised.
The AG also argued that the situation in Assam is quite different from the rest of the country. He contended that the land is quite a fertile land, where these people (alleged encroachers) are living and the land is a part of the Government’s agriculture project, and that it wants to make it a forest area.
To this, LiveLaw quoted Chief Justice Dhulia saying, “Ab aapko aadmi ujarkar jungle banana hai? Hum bhi yehi reh rahe hai. (Now, you have to remove people and establish a forest? We are also living here). We also know what is happening.”
As we have previously reported in SabrangIndia, after one eviction drive on September 20, a fresh round of evictions took place, wherein 150 more huts were demolished in the same area on September 23. After being served a notice only the previous night, that too on WhatsApp, the residents protested, and were eventually showered with bullets.
The Bench has directed the government to file a detailed affidavit, and has posted the matter for hearing on November 3.