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Status quo Continues on Jahangirpuri, SC to Take ‘Serious View’ of Demolitions After Court Order

The two-judge SC bench issued notice to the NDMC in the petition filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolition drive in violence-hit areas of Delhi’s Jahangirpuri.
Status quo Continues on Jahangirpuri Demolition, SC to Take ‘Serious View’ of Demolitions Happening After Court Order

Image Courtesy: PTI

New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the status quo until further orders on the demolition of buildings in violence-hit Jahangirpuri area of Delhi. Communal clashes broke out on Saturday during a Hanuman Jayanti procession in Jahangirpuri where the North Delhi Municipal Corporation carried out the controversial demolition drive on Wednesday, tearing down structures near the mosque where the violence had started.

 A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai issued notice to the Centre and others on the plea filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that claimed that buildings of Muslim riots accused are being razed, news agency PTI reported.

The apex court also said that it will take a serious view of the demolition on Wednesday, which was carried out after its orders even though the NDMC Mayor was informed. “We’ll take serious view of demolition that took place after information was given to Mayor,” the SC bench observed, according to a LiveLaw report. 

Raja Iqbal Singh, the NDMC Mayor, had told NDTV on Wednesday that the demolition drive was not confined to the riot-accused persons’ houses in Jahangirpuri and claimed it was a routine procedure. He, however, evaded questions about whether the NDMC had informed the police about the demolition before or after Saturday's violence. 

Moreover, under BJP-ruled civic body’s directions, the demolition continued on Wednesday even two hours after the SC ordered status quo in the case. Owning to this, the apex court intervened for the second time. Chief Justice Ramana directed the court staff to get the contact numbers of the NDMC Mayor, Commissioner, and Delhi Police Commissioner, and ensure that the order reached the civic authorities on an urgent basis.  

The Bench further issued notice to the Union of India and the state governments of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat on another petition filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the respective state authorities carrying out demolition of houses of those accused of crimes, the LiveLaw reported. 

The petitions will be listed against after a two-week period.

‘One Community Targeted’ 

On Wednesday, as the demolition drive started in the name of “anti-encroachment” in Jahangirpuri, senior Advocate Dushyant Dave made an urgent mention before the Supreme Court, following which, the Chief Justice of India ordered status quo on demolitions until further order. During the hearing on Thursday, Dave submitted, “This is not an issue confined to Jahangirpuri. It is a matter affecting social fabric of our country. If this is allowed, there will be no rule of law left. How is it that the President of the BJP writes a letter to the Municipal Commissioner to start demolitions and they demolish after that?” the LiveLaw reported.

Referring to a legislation in Delhi that regularised colonies, Dave said there were 731 unauthorised colonies in the national capital with lakhs of people. “…And you pick up one colony because you target one community,” he was quoted by LiveLaw as saying. 

Dave further pointed out that the Section 343 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act mandates that no order of demolition can be passed without giving a reasonable opportunity to the person to be heard, the report said. He added, “They have demolished homes. Who should be held accountable? These are poor people. If you want to act against unauthorised constructions, you go to Sainik Farms. Go to Gold Links where every second home is an encroachment. You don’t want to touch them, but target poor people.”

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing in the second petition filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolition of homes of accused in other states, submitted that Muslims were being associated with encroachments even though encroachment was a serious problem across India. “My plea is that such instances are happening in other states also. When processions are carried out and frictions occur, homes of only one community is bulldozed,” he said.

Senior Advocate PV Surendranath, appearing for Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat, said that she had reached the Jahangirpuri demolition area at around 10.45 am and told the authorities about the SC order, but the demolitions continued till 12.25 pm, LiveLaw reported.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, submitted that the eviction drive started back in January and opposed the claim that only properties of Muslims were acted against by citing the demolition drive at Khargone, where majority of affected parties were Hindus. 

Mehta, according to the LiveLaw report, also submitted that Wednesday’s demolition was to clear roads and there is no provision to send notices to remove stalls, chairs etc. from footpaths and roads. At this point, Justice Rao asked whether the April 20 demolition was only of stalls, chairs, and tables and such things. Justice Gavai added, “Are bulldozers required to remove stalls, chairs and all?”

The SG maintained that notices were issued for buildings. However, senior Advocate Hegde, appearing for Ganesh Gupta, submitted that no notice was served to his client whose juice shop in Jahangirpuri was destroyed. 

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