Law and order problem used as “ruse” to raze buildings: HC halts Nuh demolition drive

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday ordered a halt to the demolition drive in violence-hit Nuh and asked if it was an “exercise of ethnic cleansing”.

“Apparently, without any demolition orders and notices, the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law,” the court of Justices G S Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeevan said.

“The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State,” said the court which took suo motu cognizance of the matter

The high court directed the state government not to further carry out the drive without following the procedure.

The court also issued a notice of motion to the Haryana government which was accepted by Advocate General B R Mahajan. The matter has been fixed for hearing on August 11.

Several “illegally-constructed” structures have been razed by the authorities in Nuh in the past few days. Officials had said some of the buildings were used by rioters when a Vishva Hindu Parishad procession was targeted by a stone-pelting mob on July 31. It led to communal clashes that spread to Gurugram.

Six people, including two home guards and a cleric, were killed in the violence.

The high court also directed the state government to furnish an affidavit as to how many buildings have been demolished in the last two weeks, both in Nuh and Gurugram and whether any notice was issued before demolition.

“If any such demolition is to be carried out today, it should be stopped if the procedure is not followed as per law,” said the court.

The court appointed advocate Kshitij Sharma as ‘amicus curiae’ (friend of court) to assist it on this issue.

Referring to certain news reports, the court in its order stated that demolitions are being carried out in Nuh and Gurugram.

“The action is stated to be on account of the fact that the individuals involved in the anti-social activities had made illegal constructions. The said news item would go on to show that buildings next to the hospital in the form of commercial buildings, residential buildings, restaurants which were in existence for a long time have been brought down by bulldozers.

The news item also says that the Home Minister himself has said that bulldozers are part of ‘illaj’ (treatment) since the government is probing communal violence,” said the order.

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On Friday, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, while replying to a question on the use of bulldozers, had said, “Bulldozer, wherever necessary, will be used.”

“Ilaj mein bulldozer bhi ek karavayi hai (bulldozer is part of the treatment),” Vij had said.

The court invoked historian Lord Acton’s statement that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and said, “It was in such circumstances, it was constrained to issue notice to the State as it has come to notice that the State of Haryana is using force and is demolishing buildings on account of the fact that some riots have occurred in Gurugram and Nuh.”

Stating that they were of the considered opinion that the Constitution of India protects the citizens of this country, the judges said no demolitions as such can be done without following the procedure prescribed in law.

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