Calcutta High Court sets an example, orders Rs. 80,000 compensation for illegal demolition

The court expressed dismay that the authorities did not follow due process of law and in an unauthorised manner, demolished a property without issuing any notice

Calcutta High Court sets an example, orders Rs. 80,000 compensation for illegal demolition

The Calcutta High Court, in a writ petition filed by a person whose property was razed by the administration, ordered that the authorities pay a compensation of Rs. 80,000 to the petitioner.  The bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya left it up to the respondents to decide who will bear the costs to pay the compensation. One of the respondents was SDO of Jangipuri, Murshidabad.

The court was deeply perturbed by the facts of the case and deemed that the respondents acted maliciously.

The writ petition was filed on April 18 and notice was served upon the respondents. The matter was mentioned on April 19 and the respondents were informed of the same, yet the structure was demolished on the same day as the order, on March 29. The order mentioned that the plot in question was a land under dispute for being a road. However, the court pointed out that the order was passed under West Bengal Public Land (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, which excludes “road” from the definition of “public land”.

The court read down the West Bengal Public Land (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, while assuming that the authorities had powers under this Act to act against the disputed land. The court found that section 3 and 4 of the Act  were not complied with by the SDM, wherein he/she is required to give a show cause notice to the occupant and take action only after considering the reply to the show cause notice.

The impugned order in the present case reflects that the SDM jumped Sections 3 and 4 of the 1962 Act and proceeded straightaway to direct removal of the encroachment under Section 5(1) of the Act.

The court said that even if the March 29 order was to be considered as a notice, the documents placed before the Court do not indicate that the procedure to be followed under Sections 4 and 5 were complied with. The court noted that the documents do not mention the word “demolition” anywhere.

The court also took note of a letter from BDO, Murshidabad seeking urgent steps for completion of a Government project on the concerned land. The letter was also sent to the M.P., Jangipur and the M.L.A., Suti for sending a representative on the stipulated date and time.

“The action of the State authorities in failing to comply with the statutory mandate of the West Bengal Public Land (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1962, − assuming that the Act is applicable in the present case− and disregarding the filing of the writ petition before this Court amounts to “Malice in Law”.”

The court held that malice in law “involves an intention on the part of the authorities to do a wrongful act with full knowledge not only of the commission of the act but also of the consequences which would necessarily follow as a result of the act”.

The court also deprecated the practice of calling upon the political functionaries. The court said, “Calling upon political functionaries to lend support to an act which is ex facie illegal aggravates the malice and is evidence of the premeditated nature of the act thereof. The State respondents have disregarded a pending judicial proceeding and have sought to frustrate the same.”

The court thus directed the respondents to pay Rs. 80,000 as compensation for the loss caused to the petitioners.

The order may be read here:

In a similar unauthorised and unlawful fashion, a section of a 250-year-old mosque which also had a madrassa that housed more than 100 orphans was razed to the ground in Delhi’s Bengali Market. When Advocate Mehmood Pracha reached the site and asked for demolition orders, the authorities and the police refused to provide the same. As per the mosque management, they were not served any notice of demolition. There is clearly no accountability from the authorities who come and demolish structures without giving notice to the occupants/residents. Many such incidents have been recorded this year and this direction of the Calcutta High Court to make good the loss to the petitioner by way of monetary compensation can become a major deterrent for such errant authorities. While in some cases, courts stressed upon the need for rehabilitation of those who are evicted and rendered homeless, in cases where due process is not followed, penalising the authority can certainly reduce the number of such incidents.

The most unfortunate of these recent incidents was the one from Kanpur Dehat where a mother and daughter were burnt alive as they were inside their hutment when the bulldozer came for them. While the police at first claimed that they set themselves on fire, eventually a case of murder was registered against the SDM and others.

In Assam’s Sonitpur, 2,500 Bengali Muslim families were rendered homeless as a demolition drive was conducted, displacing these families for their lands where they were cultivators.

In UP’s Ghaziabad, in Sahibabad people’s homes were being demolished, allegedly without any notice. In a video posted on social media, a woman can be seen pleading to the police and other people present, to not go ahead but she was being dragged.



250-year-old mosque in Delhi partially demolished in “anti encroachment drive”

Evictions are at an all-time high as bulldozers gain momentum in the country

UP: Demolition drive goes awry, mother daughter burnt alive

MP: In CM’s Home District, Bulldozers Reduce 20 Homes Built Under PMAY to Rubble



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