Status quo to be maintained till further orders: SC on anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri

The bench said, "We are not staying demolitions in this country. Demolitions are always with a bulldozer".
Status quo to be maintained till further orders: SC on anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri
Security personnel keep vigil after clashes broke out between two communities during a Hanuman Jayanti processionPTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the status quo until further orders on the razing of buildings in violence-hit Jahangirpuri area of the national capital, and said it would take a serious view of the demolition that was carried out even after its order was communicated to the NDMC mayor.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai issued notice to the Centre and others on the plea filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that claimed that buildings of Muslim riots accused were razed.

"Status quo to be maintained till further order...List after two weeks and pleadings to be completed till then," the court said.

"We will take a serious view of the demolition which was carried out even after Supreme Court orders, even after NDMC Mayor was informed. We will take that up later," the bench said.

At the outset, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said this matter raises far-reaching questions of constitutional and national importance.

The bench asked, "What is national importance in this matter? It is only pertaining to an area."

Dave replied that this is going on everywhere wherever riots are taking place. Is it an instrument of state policy to engage in fake encounters and now bulldozers, he asked.

"They never did anything like this in 1984 and 2002 then why now. Delhi has an Act of 2011 which protected every illegal encroachment till December 2023. A particular section of society is being targeted. This is the warning constitutional framers gave us. I will read Sardar Patel and Dr B R Ambedkar on this. They spoke about this eventuality," Dave said.

He said the Delhi Police registered an FIR against the VHP that you carried out procession despite our objection and said we told you this is a sensitive area don't go there.

"What happened there is a matter of inquiry by an appropriate judicial process but what you do is make large scale arrests from people of only one community and start bulldozing," Dave said adding they carried out demolition despite the apex court's order.

"This is not confined to Jahangirpuri and affects the social fabric of the country. If we allow this, there will be no rule of law or democracy left," Dave said.

Dave further said,"How can a BJP leader write a letter that you demolish and NDMC demolishes it? Delhi Municipality Act has provision for notice and there is provision for appeals too."

He submitted that there are 731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi with 50 lakh people.

"If you want to act against unauthorised constructions, you go to Sainik Farms. Come to Golf Links, where I stay and where every second home is an encroachment. You don't want to touch them, but target the poor people," he said.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also appearing for the Muslim body, said encroachment was a serious problem throughout India and it was increasingly being associated with Muslims.

"My plea is that such instances are happening in other states also. When processions are carried out and frictions occur, homes of only one community are bulldozed and the politics in power judges what happens or doesn't happen."

"Look at Madhya Pradesh where the minister says that if Muslims do such a thing they cannot expect justice. Who decides that? Who gave him that power. Somebody is in jail and his house was demolished," Sibal said and sought a stay on demolition with a bulldozer.

The bench said, "We are not staying demolitions in this country. Demolitions are always with a bulldozer".

Advocate P V Surendranath, appearing for CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, said despite the court's status quo order on Wednesday, the demolition drive was not stopped.

"I informed my client and she (Karat) informed the authorities. They did not stop and it went on till 12:45 pm. She had to physically stand to stop the process," Surendranath said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that the encroachment removal process in Jahangirpuri had begun in January this year.

"This is what happens when an organisation comes here suddenly. I will show you instances when notice is not required and illegal structures were given notice. Traders have moved high court last year and the high court had itself ordered demolition," Mehta said.

The SG said during a demolition drive held in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh last year, 88 affected parties were Hindus and 26 were Muslims.

After hearing the parties, the bench ordered, "We want affidavits from the petitioner on the notices, if served, and counter-affidavits, and till then, status quo order will continue."

Karat had moved the top court, saying the demolition did not stop even an hour after the SC ordered status quo.

The apex court on Wednesday had stalled the anti-encroachment drive by authorities in the area after taking note of a plea of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that buildings of Muslim riots accused are being razed.

The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, which ordered maintaining of status quo concerning the demolition of buildings in the forenoon, had intervened again during the day after it was apprised that the authorities were not stopping on grounds that no official communication has been received by them.

Bulldozers tore down several concrete and temporary structures close to a mosque in Jahangirpuri on Wednesday as part of drive by the BJP-ruled civic body, days after the northwest Delhi neighbourhood was rocked by communal violence.

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