‘Fashionable to Demolish Houses Without Due Procedure, Should Be Last Recourse’: MP High Court

"[Demolition] should only be carried out after providing the house owner with a fair chance to rectify the situation by obtaining regularisation," the court remarked.

New Delhi: In a case regarding illegal demolition of houses, the Madhya Pradesh high court has directed “disciplinary action” against the concerned municipal authorities and awarded Rs 1 lakh in compensation to the petitioner.

The petitioner, Radha Langri, had approached the court seeking compensation for the demolition of her houses carried out without following due procedure by the Ujjain Municipal Corporation (UMC).

Justice Vivek Rusia, while delivering the ruling, said, “As observed repeatedly by this court, it has become fashionable now for local administration and local bodies to demolish any house by drawing up proceedings without complying with the Principal of Natural Justice and publish it in the newspaper. It appears that in this case also the criminal case was registered against one of the family members of the petitioners and demolition activities were carried out.”

UMC argued that the demolitions were justified as the houses (house no. 466 and 467) had been constructed in violation of the Municipal Corporation Act since the petitioners had not obtained building permission beforehand.

However, the court said that while no one has the right to construct a house without proper permission, demolition should be considered as a last resort. Moreover, it should only be carried out after providing the house owner with a fair chance to rectify the situation by obtaining regularisation, LiveLaw reported.

Also read: ‘Muslims Targeted in 128 Demolitions, 617 People Affected’: Amnesty Reports on Bulldozer Action

The court also pointed out discrepancies in the ownership details of the houses and noted that a fabricated panchnama had been prepared.

The UMC alleged that house no. 466 was owned by one Parvez Khan, not Langri, and the other was registered under one Uma. However, the court found that no one by the name of Parvez Khan exists.

The court said, “Had the building officer gone to the spot he would have been informed about the name of the petitioner about the ownership. There is no such person in the name of Parvez Khan, there is no such document to show that he purchased the property only, on the basis of this so called oral information the panchnama was drawn and drastic action for demolition has been taken.”

“The demolition of house no. 466 by serving a notice to a fictitious person Parvez Khan is a highly illegal and arbitrary action for which disciplinary action is liable to be taken against the concerned officers and employee,” the court remarked.

Regarding house no. 467, the court said that demolition notice was issued to Uma in a careless manner and without any acknowledgment. The bench pulled up the corporation authorities over the lack of proper procedure and arbitrary action.

The petitioners were also given the option to seek further compensation for their losses through a civil court.

Bulldozer action

International human rights organisation Amnesty International, last week, released two reports titled ‘If you speak up, your house will be demolished’: Bulldozer Injustice in India’ and ‘Unearthing Accountability: JCB’s Role and Responsibility in Bulldozer Injustice in India’.

The reports document the punitive demolition of Muslim properties in at least five states using JCB-branded bulldozers calling it “a hate campaign against the minority community”. According to the report, the demolitions, often enacted under the guise of removing illegal construction, violated due process outlined in domestic and international human rights law. They also highlighted that Muslim-concentrated localities were targeted, while Muslim-owned properties were selectively demolished, leaving nearby Hindu-owned properties untouched.