New Delhi: Defending the demolitions carried out in Kanpur and Prayagraj earlier this month, the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh has told the Supreme Court that the exercise had “no relation to the riots” that preceded it.
The demolition drives were conducted by the local authorities, who acted independently, “as part of their routine effort against unauthorised/ illegal constructions and encroachments”, it further submitted in an affidavit.
The affidavit, accessed by ThePrint, was filed Tuesday in response to petitions challenging bulldozer action in the two cities in the aftermath of violence triggered by former BJP spokespersons’ remarks on the Prophet Muhammad.
The court is hearing applications filed by the Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind — an organisation of Islamic scholars — seeking directions to the state to stop “unauthorised” demolitions. These fresh applications are part of a writ petition filed by the Jamiat in April, when the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had razed alleged encroachments in the riot-hit Jahangirpuri area of the national capital.
Issuing notice to the UP government last week, the court had said that demolitions can only be carried out in accordance with the law, and not as a retaliatory exercise by the state.
With regard to the demolition of student activist Afreen Fatima’s house in Prayagraj, the state government claimed it had issued a show cause notice in the name of Fatima’s father and owner of the house, Javed Mohammed on 10 May.
The notice, regarding alleged unauthorised construction and illegally utilising residential premises for commercial use, was issued after several residents of the area allegedly lodged complaints.
It further claimed that the notices were pasted on a wall of the building since the family refused to accept them.
The government also told the court that Mohammed was given a 15-day heads-up to raze the alleged illegal construction himself. According to the state’s affidavit, since he did not respond to the demolition notice and failed to remove the unauthorised construction himself, he was asked to vacate the premises by 12 June so that the building could be demolished.
‘Cherry-picking’, ‘false allegations’
In its response, the government also took “strong exception” to the petitioner calling the demolitions “extra-legal punitive measures”, and told the court that “all such allegations are absolutely false”. It asserted that the petitioner “attempted to give a mala fide colour to lawful action taken by the local development authorities…by cherry-picking one-sided media reporting of a few incidents and extrapolating sweeping allegations”.
The government asserted that the demolitions were carried out by the Kanpur Development Authority and Prayagraj Development Authority “strictly” in accordance with the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act 1972. It told the court that these are “autonomous statutory bodies” that act “independently”.
The affidavit said that the state is separately taking action against those involved in rioting under the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and laws such as the UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, and UP Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act.
With regard to the two demolitions in Kanpur, the affidavit claimed that the petitioner had “cherry-picked” the demolitions “in an attempt to falsely link the same to the rioting”.
It further said that the demolitions “had been initiated by the Kanpur Development Authority long before the incidents of rioting that took place in June 2022”, adding that the two proceedings were initiated in August 2020 and February 2022.
It also asserted that “even if any such alleged demolition action is to be challenged, the same is to be done by the affected party before the high court”.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)