The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that no property in the state was destroyed to punish people accused of taking part in violent protests against comments made by two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders on Prophet Mohammed, despite accusations of “bulldozer politics” under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
According to the state, the recent demolitions in Prayagraj and Kanpur were completed by local development authorities in strict compliance with the 1973 Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act.
The State made the claims in its affidavit in response to the petitions submitted by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, who claimed that the demolitions were targeted measures against the minority population in response to protests over comments made against the Prophet Muhammad.
The Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Penal Code, the Uttar Pradesh Gangster and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, the Prevention of Public Property Damages Act, and the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act are mentioned as pertinent laws to be in compliance with when the state government is taking action against those accused of rioting.
The State claims that in an effort to falsely connect two demolitions of unlawful constructions that occurred in the homes of two men named Ishtiaq Amad and Riyaz Ahmed to the rioting, the Petitioner “selectively picked” two of the demolitions.
However, the State has also argued that both of the two in question were under construction, not in accordance with the permission granted, and that certain portions of both were illegal or non-compliant structures. Most importantly, the Kanpur Development Authority had already begun legal action against the two buildings under the Urban Planning Act before any rioting incidents occurred.
The State has argued that the Prayagraj Development Authority only removed the illegal construction after offering enough opportunity and providing appropriate service in accordance with Section 27 of the Act, and that this had nothing to do with the rioting episode.
The show-cause notices that the State claims to have served on the property owners are attached to its affidavit. The State claims that the Kanpur and Prayagraj Development Authorities, which are statutory autonomous bodies independent of the State administration, carried out the demolitions in accordance with the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1972, as part of their routine effort against unauthorized/illegal constructions and encroachments.
The affidavit claimed that the Muslim organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had “deliberately obfuscated the true facts to paint a nefarious picture of alleged malafide on the part of the administration” and demanded that the two applications it had filed asking the UP government to be prohibited from demolishing any more properties be dismissed with monetary penalty.
The state demanded dismissal of the plea while stating that the state government takes strong exception to Jamiat’s “attempt to name the highest constitutional functionaries of the state and falsely colour the local development authority’s lawful actions strictly complying with the UP Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973, as ‘extra-legal punitive measures’ against accused persons, targeting any particular religious community”.
With regards to the June 12 demolition of a portion of Javed Mohammed’s home in Prayagraj, the state argued that a show-cause notice was issued on May 10 due to illegal building and the usage of residential properties for commercial purposes after complaints from multiple locals.
According to the affidavit, the notice was posted on the building’s wall because Mohammed was given 15 days to personally demolish the illegal construction but was unable to do so since the family members refused to accept it. He was given a second notice on June 10 to leave the property after the illegal construction was not dismantled by him. On June 12, the property was then destroyed.
The Supreme Court is predicted to take up Jamiat’s application on June 24, the top court requested a response from the state administration over the demolition of properties on the last date of hearings, noting that demolitions must occur in compliance with the law and not as a form of retaliation.
On June 16, a panel of Justices AS Bopanna and Vikram Nath stated, “We are conscious that no demolition can take place without prior notice and without following the proper procedures…everything should look fair. When a case is before the nation’s highest court, people must have confidence in the system. Without following the proper procedure, it should not be done, our concern is that the rule of law must be upheld in every instance.”
After granting Jamiat’s requests to stop the UP government from demolishing any more houses belonging to persons who were allegedly involved in protests or riots following some divisive comments made by BJP leaders, the bench advised the state government and its officials to “act with sensitivity.”
The State was given three days by the court to prove that the recent demolitions complied with both procedural and municipal legislation.