Supreme court refuses interim blanket stay on demolitions across states [14.7.22]

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay demolition of "illegal" constructions being carried out across states, observing that an "omnibus order" cannot be passed restraining the government authorities from proceeding against unauthorised constructions.

Presiding over a clutch of petitions challenging demolition drive taken up by various state governments, the top court said "rule of law" must be followed by everyone.

Refusing to grant any interim stay, a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha remarked, "If under the municipal law the construction is unauthorised, can an omnibus order be passed to restrain the authorities?"

The court listed the matter for August 10 for resumed hearing.

The Centre argued that participation in riots does not immune someone from having one's unauthorised construction demolished.

Contending that an unnecessary hype is being created about the issue, solicitor general Tushar Mehta argued that the authorities have been following due procedures before demolishing unauthorised structures.

Appearing on behalf of the petitioners, senior advocate Dushyant Dave alleged that the state authorities have been picking and choosing action against one particular community. "Demolition of houses merely because somebody is accused of a crime is not acceptable in our society," he argued. "We are governed by the rule of law."

One of the petitioners is Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, a Muslim body.

Responding to its petition, the Uttar Pradesh government in an affidavit filed last month had said the demolitions were not related to punishing the accused involved in violent protests following remarks by two BJP leaders on Prophet Mohammed.
Stating that the demolition has been carried out in accordance with law, the Yogi Adityanath-led government had told the top court that none of the actual affected parties, if any, have approached the court in connection with the demolition.

"The said demolitions, referred to in the interlocutory applications, have been carried out by the local development authority, which are statutory autonomous bodies, independent of the state administration, as per law as part of their routine effort against unauthorised/illegal constructions and encroachments, in accordance with the UP Urban Planning and Development Act, 1972," the government's affidavit said.

Questioning the locus standi of the petitioners, the UP government said, "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, and not this court."

The affidavit said the government takes strong exception to the attempt by the petitioners to name the highest constitutional functionaries of the state and falsely colour the local development authority's lawful actions as "extra-legal punitive measures" against the accused persons, targeting any religious community.

It described all the allegations as "absolutely false".


14 Jul 2022