The apex court refused to intervene in the Shaheen Bagh anti-encroachment drive, asking petitioners to approach the high court. It questioned the Communist Party of India(Marxist), saying, ‘We have never given licence to everybody to come here and say, ‘my house is being demolished’, even if it is unauthorised’
The bulldozers are back in the national capital!
A demolition drive at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi landed up turning into a massive protest, with the issue reaching the footsteps of the Supreme Court.
Today’s demolition drive by the civic body began nearly two weeks after the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had razed shops and homes, mostly owned by Muslims, in the city’s Jahangirpuri area despite a stay order by the Supreme Court.
The Jahangirpuri demolitions were carried out on 20 April, just four days after the locality was hit by communal violence.
Interestingly, while the apex court had stayed the demolitions at Jahangirpuri, it refused to entertain a plea filed by Communist Party of India(Marxist) (CPI(M), saying it cannot interfere with the anti-encroachment drive at the instance of a political party. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai asked the party to approach the Delhi High Court.
We examine what the apex court had said in connection with the Jahangirpuri encroachment vis-a-vis the Shaheen Bagh incident.
Shaheen Bagh plea rejected
On Monday morning, bulldozers arrived at Shaheen Bagh, which gained popularity in 2019 for being the centre of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests.
As the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) began its demolition drive, locals and Congress workers sat on the roads, protesting the move.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Okhla, Amanatullah Khan, also joined the protests at Shaheen Bagh. “People have already removed encroachments on my request. When there are no encroachments, why have they come here? Just to do politics?” Khan was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
As protests intensified and people forced the bulldozers to stop work, the CPI(M) filed a plea in the apex court, asking for a stay on the demolition drive.
However, the Supreme Court refused to accept the plea, strongly objecting to a “political party approaching the court”.
Asking the CPI(M) to withdraw its petition and approach the high court, the Supreme Court said it would have stepped in if the “aggrieved party had come”.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai said, “What is this CPI(M) party filing the case? We can understand if somebody aggrieved is filing the writ petition. What is your fundamental right violation?”
An NDTV report had the Justices quoted as saying, “You do not even go to the high court. You come straight to the Supreme Court. What is this? A political party coming here and telling us what to do.”
When senior advocate P Surendranath, appearing for the CPI(M), referred to the apex court’s recent orders on Jahangirpuri where the demolition drive was stayed, the bench said let the affected parties come.
“We have not given licence to anybody to come here to say my house cannot be demolished even if it is unauthorised. You cannot take shelter of that order. We cannot interfere…that too at the instance of political parties,” the bench said as per a report in News9Live.
The Shaheen Bagh incident immediately drew up comparisons with what unfolded in the North Delhi area just over three weeks ago.
Just days after Jahangirpuri area witnessed communal violence in which eight police personnel and one resident was injured, on 20 April, seven bulldozers on orders of the BJP-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) began razing parts of several structures.
The demolition of “encroachments” left residents in tears as anguish as many saw their livelihoods and houses being destroyed.
Jahanara, 50, who ran a cycle repair shop near the mosque, told The Print that the officials didn’t give her time to remove items from the shop. Her complaint was echoed by others in the area.
As officials continued to raze structures, the matter reached the apex court when lawyers filed a petition on behalf of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind.
A bench by Chief Justice of India Justice NV Ramana had then passed a brief order of status quo (to remain in existing condition).
Led by senior advocate Dushyant Dave, the lawyers had said, as per a Hindustan Times report, “This is a completely unconstitutional and unauthorised demolition drive, which is taking place in Jahangirpuri where violence took place recently. No notice was given to anyone and nobody was heard. We have moved an urgent plea.”
The court then issued a temporary status quo and made it clear that it would examine whether due process was followed before the drive.
But the demolition did not stop and the excavators proceeded to pull down shops, with officials saying they had not received the court order in hand.
It was only when CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat reached the site and waved the Supreme Court order that the demolition drive came to a stop.
CPI(M) Leader Brinda Karat stood in front of a JCB to halt demolition drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri at 12.10 pm. Drive continued till 12.15 pm despite SC asking MCD to maintain status quo around 11 am. Action a few days after communal clashes on 16 April. @TheQuint @QuintHindi pic.twitter.com/JLH8RcvprZ
— Eshwar (@hey_eshwar) April 20, 2022
“We saw the bulldozers just smashing structures. They just bulldozed everything selectively. We had to stop it. After we stopped it, a senior police official came. I spoke to him and showed him the court order. Then he said yes, yes, we will stop it now,” Karat told NDTV.
The demolitions, she said, were totally illegal. “You are bulldozing and bullying not just a community. You are bulldozing the law. You are bulldozing the Supreme Court order.”
One thing is for certain: bulldozer politics is here to stay!
With inputs from agencies
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