Gauhati HC Orders Compensation for Bulldozed Homes of Alleged Arson Accused
Image Courtesy: sentinelassam.com
The Gauhati High Court has directed the state government to take appropriate decisions for compensating those arson accused whose homes were demolished by Assam Police in May 2022.
On November 20, the Gauhati High Court had reprimanded the Assam Superintendent of Police for bulldozing the homes of five arson accused “under the guise of investigation”. The court took suo moto cognizance [In Re State of Assam and others, PIL (Suo Moto)/3/2022] of the matter, where the home of 5 men accused of setting fire to Batadrava Police Station in Nagaon district were demolished. The bench led by Chief Justice RM Chhaya and comprising Justice Soumitra Saikia questioned how the police demolished the house without permission.
On the hearing held on January 3, the matter was brought to a close by the bench while observing that the government is seized of the matter. Advocate General D Saikia assured the court that a Committee consisting of the Chief Secretary of the State of Assam is enquiring into the incidence of bulldozing of the house and appropriate action shall be taken even against the erring officers within a period of 15(fifteen) days.
The court said, “it is expected that the State shall also take appropriate decisions for compensating the persons affected by the illegal action of the officer. Report of the same shall be produced before this Court in this proceeding.” Further the court closed the proceedings with liberty to revive the same merely by filing a note.
During the November hearing, When the State’s counsel submitted that the police had permission from the District magistrate to search the house, the bench pointed out that the permission was to search and not to “bulldoze”.
The Chief Justice said, “He may be SP of any district, even your IG, DIG, whoever may be, the IAS authority, the DG, he has to pass through the gamut of law. Only because they head the police department, they can’t break anybody’s house. Nobody is safe in this country then, if this is permitted. We are not that. Procedure has to be followed”. He continued, “In my limited career here and at the Bar, I have not come across any police officer using a bulldozer by way of a search warrant.”
The reason for the alleged arson was the arbitrary arrest of a Muslim fish seller. A fish-seller Safiqul Islam was on his way to Sivasagar district on the night of May 20, 2022, when the Batadrava police stopped him and allegedly demanded a bribe of ₹ 10,000 and a duck from him. They made the same demand from his wife and allegedly assaulted him in front of her. She rushed to arrange for the money but was informed later that Islam was admitted to the district civil hospital, where he was found to be dead. Accusing the police of custodial murder, the family took his body to the police station and started protesting. Viral videos show the family eventually setting the place on fire in which 2 policemen were injured. Within days, 21 people were arrested for arson and yet the district administration launched an eviction drive against encroachers in Salnabori village – where the same people live who allegedly set the police station on fire.
The high court’s order may be read here:
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