Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Due process must be followed, says SC on UP demolitions

Observing that “due process must be followed while carrying out demolitions of illegal constructions”, the Supreme Court on Thursday sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh government on Jamiat-Ulama-I-Hind’s plea against the demolition of Muslims’ houses in the state.

A bench of Justices A S Bopanna and Vikram Nath fixed 21 June to hear the application next and asked Uttar Pradesh government to file its objections in the meanwhile.

The top court said that it cannot pass any generic order saying there should be no demolitions but can only say procedure must be followed.

The apex court did not pass any interim order staying demolitions but remarked orally that since notice has been issued in the matter, “must make sure that nothing untoward happens in the meanwhile”.

“Respondents will get time for their objections. We should ensure their safety in the meantime. Let us be clear, they are also part of society. Ultimately when someone has a grievance they have a right to have it addressed,” the bench orally said.

The Uttar Pradesh State and the concerned municipal authorities are expected to place their stands on affidavit by the next date of hearing, legal website Bar and Bench reported.

The Muslim body prayed for directions to the UP government to ensure that no further demolition exercise of any nature is carried out in the state “without following due process and that any demolition must be done only after adequate notice and opportunity of hearing is given to each of the affected persons.”

As per Section 10 of the Uttar Pradesh (Regulation of Building Operations) Act of 1958, demolition of a building can be undertaken only after giving the affected person a reasonable opportunity of being heard, JUH said to the top court.

Section 27 of the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973 also requires that the affected person be heard before proceeding with the demolition and be given at least 15 days’ notice, the JUH petition stated.

No legal provisions were followed with respect to the recent demolitions, it was contended.

“The demolitions have been justified saying that constructions were illegal. Shocking and appalling circumstances not even seen during Emergency,” Senior Lawyer CU Singh, representing the JUH, said.

“Statements are being made by high constitutional functionaries, right from the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh downwards and several others. But once the demolitions are carried out or immediately thereafter, they are sought to be justified on the ground that these are illegal constructions. This is happening again and again and it’s like a play book being used. To my mind it’s not shocking but absolutely appalling,” Singh said.

This week, houses of at least half dozen Muslims including prominent Muslim activist Afreen Fatima were razed illegally in Uttar Pradesh after the state government accused the Muslims of protesting against the derogatory comments on the prophet Muhammed by BJP leaders.

Opposition leaders, Muslim groups and several Indin and international rights bodies condemned the bulldozing of Afreen Fatima’s house and imprisoning hundreds of Muslim protesters.

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