UP Govt Tells SC Kanpur, Prayagraj Development Authorities 'Independent'; Demolitions Lawful

However, a day after the June 10 protests, Chief Minister Adityanath had himself asked officials to "continue with bulldozer action."

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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court that its recent demolition drives – targeting homes of people accused in cases that were filed after protests against BJP leaders’ comments against Islam – were in accordance with the law.

LiveLaw has reported on the Adityanath government’s affidavit, filed in response to the Supreme Court’s notice while hearing pleas by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind seeking directions to the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that no further demolitions are carried out in the state without following due process and that such exercise is done only after adequate notice. The pleas also sought action against officials responsible.

On June 16, a vacation bench of Justices A.S. Bopanna and Vikram Nath asked the Uttar Pradesh government to not carry out demolition activities “except in accordance with law” and asked it to demonstrate how its recent drives had followed procedural and municipal laws.

Arguing that the bulldozer action was in accordance with the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973, the Uttar Pradesh government alleged that Jamiat, as the petitioner, had “cherry picked” two demolition actions, LiveLaw reported.

The properties of Ishtiaq Ahmad and Riyaz Ahmed, were illegal constructions, and had been falsely connected to the Kanpur violence in the aftermath of the BJP leaders’ comments, the government has claimed.

“Proceedings under the Urban Planning Act against the two buildings had been initiated by the Kanpur Development Authority long before the incidents of rioting,” the government claimed.

Demolition drives taken up by the Adityanath-led government have so far targeted Muslim residents who have been labelled ‘masterminds’ within a day of clashes or protests. Soon after, buildings associated with them have been demolished with the administration deeming them ‘illegal’. Most recently, in Prayagraj, the administration destroyed the home of Welfare Party leader Javed Mohammad, a day after naming him a ‘key conspirator’ in the June 10 protests against BJP leaders’ comments against Islam. The house was notably in Mohammad’s wife’s name, even though the notice was in Mohammad’s name.

“The Petitioner has deliberately obfuscated the true facts to paint a nefarious picture of alleged mala fides on the part of the Administration, and that too, without stating any facts on affidavit,” Uttar Pradesh said.

The affidavit also asserts that the Kanpur and Prayagraj Development Authorities, as statutory autonomous bodies, are independent of state administration, and have carried out the demolitions as part of their “routine effort against unauthorised/illegal constructions and encroachments, in accordance with the UP Urban Planning and Development Act, 1972.”

Even though the government has claimed that the development authorities function independently, on June 12, reports had said that chief minister Adityanath had asked officials to “continue with bulldozer action.” The chief minister’s words came two days after protests were seen in various Uttar Pradesh towns against the BJP leaders’ comments. Senior bureaucrats and government position holders have since allegedly repeated this line in various forms and on social media.

This is a claim the Jamiat highlighted in its petition – a fact which the Uttar Pradesh government took exception to in its reply to the Supreme Court.

The government said it has taken “strong exception to the attempt by the Petitioner 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.”

Uttar Pradesh has asked the Supreme Court to hold the petitioners accountable for such a claim.