CHANDIGARH: Can a state government or any government take law into its own hands and demolish homes and businesses without following any law, any procedure? Certain governments surely believe they can, be it Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s Uttar Pradesh and now Khattar-ruled Haryana. The JCB crane in its monstrous uses of destroying without following laws homes and establishments has even earned some chief minister the gleeful nickname of “Bulldozer Baba.”
Bulldozers were halted in Nuh on Monday on what would have been the fifth day of demolition of properties with alleged links to rioters after the Punjab & Haryana high court took suo motu cognisance of newspaper reports and stepped in.
A division bench of justices G S Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeewan observed that clearly, without any demolition orders and notices, the law-and-order problem was being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following due process of law.
“The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law-and-order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by state. We are of the considered opinion that the Constitution of India protects the citizens of this country and no demolition as such can be done without following the procedure prescribed in law,” Justice Sandhawalia observed.
The court restrained the Haryana government from carrying out any such demolition drive if procedure is not followed as per the law. In the demolition drives that began in Nuh last Thursday as the government began a crackdown on those allegedly involved in the July 31 communal clashes when a mob targeted a religious yatra, Nuh administration sources said about 350 structures have been razed so far.
Taking strong exception to statements made by state home minister Anil Vij that bulldozers were part of the “ilaaj (treatment)” since the government was probing communal violence, the high court quoted British historian Lord Acton and observed, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Referring to the media reports on bulldozer drives in Nuh, the court said, “The action is stated to be on account of the fact that the individuals involved in the anti-social activities had made illegal constructions. The said news item would go on to show that buildings next to the hospital in the form of commercial buildings, residential buildings, restaurants which were in existence for a long time have been brought down by bulldozers.”
Issuing a notice to the Haryana government, the bench directed the authorities to furnish an affidavit as to how many buildings have been demolished in the last two weeks, both in Nuh and Gurgaon, and whether any notice was issued before the demolitions. It scheduled the next hearing on August 11 and also appointed advocate Kshitij Sharma as amicus curiae to assist the court on the issue.
Meanwhile, Nuh deputy commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata told TOI the demolition has been stopped after the court order. “The court has asked whether due process has been followed for demolition and directed the government to file a reply by August 11. We have followed the due process and will file our reply accordingly,” he said.
Excerpts from Punjab & Haryana High Court Order:
Referring to news published in the Indian Express and Times of India, the Order says:
“The news item also says that the Home Minister himself has said that bulldozer are part of illaj (treatment) since the Government is probing communal violence. The said news items are appending alongwith the file for ready reference. Lord Acton has stated “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
“It is in such circumstances, we are constrained to issue notice to State as it has come to our notice that the State of Haryana is using force and is demolishing buildings on account of the fact that some riots have occurred
“Apparently, without any demolition orders and notices, the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law. The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State.
“We are of the considered opinion that the Constitution of India protects the citizens of this country and no demolitions as such can be done without following the procedure prescribed in law. Accordingly, we issue directions to the State of Haryana to furnish an affidavit as to how many buildings have been demolished in last two weeks, both in Nuh and Gurugram and whether any notice was issued before demolition.
“If any such demolition is to be carried out today, it should be stopped if the procedure is not followed as per law. To come up on 11.08.2023.”
What started in Uttar Pradesh a few years back has now spread to the state of Haryana, where communal flare-ups are being followed by demolition drives against “encroachers” and “rioters”. After a “clash” was reported to have taken place in Nuh, Haryana on July 31 during the annual religious procession taken out by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad- Bajrang Dal, the Haryana government has resorted to bulldozing houses. As per a report in the Telegraph, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Haryana has bulldozed around 250 shanties of “illegal” immigrants from Bangladesh in the Muslim-dominated Nuh district. The police has provided that majority of bulldozed houses belonged to people booked as accused in the recent communal violence. As per a report in the Economic Times, the Haryana Urban Development Authority have been carrying out the demolitions.
On August 5, several establishments in Tauru, about 20 km from violence-hit Nuh, were also razed down by bulldozers. As reported by India Today, the authorities have again confirmed that residents of these “illegal” establishments were those who were “allegedly” involved in the riots that took place on July 31. Structures and shanties near Nuh’s SKM Government Medical College have also been demolished.
In addition to this, the authorities have also bulldozed five houses on the way to Nalhar temple, as per the Economic Times. As provided by the police, 14 youths from this community were engaged in pelting stones.
As per the India Today report, Nuh’s SDM Ashwini Kumar provided that the demolition drives are taking place on the orders of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. “This is on the orders of the CM. All of this is illegal construction. These people were involved in the riots,” Kumar stated.