On Thursday, “To remove stalls, chairs, bench, boxes, you require a bulldozer?”, the Supreme Court questioned the North Delhi Municipal Corporation about its anti-encroachment campaign in Jahangirpuri, New Delhi.
After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing NDMC, submitted that any stall, chair, bench, or other item put on a public street in violation of the Act can be removed without notice, a bench comprised of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai posed the question.
The SG was responding to the petitioners’ claim that the destruction took place without prior notice, as required by law.
A response to the SG’s arguments, Justice Rao inquired if the demolition in Jahangirpuri on April 20th was solely for the removal of booths, chairs, boxes, benches, and other similar items.
“The demolition yesterday was only of stalls, chairs, tables, etc?”, Justice Rao asked.
According to the SG, everything on public streets, footpaths, and other public areas was removed as per his directions.
“To remove stalls, chairs, bench, boxes, you require a bulldozer?”, Justice Gavai asked. SG submitted that while it is correct for the Court to say that bulldozers are needed for the demolition of buildings, according to his instructions, prior notices were issued to people.
“Notices were issued for buildings”, the SG said.
“If the statute provides for something to be done in a certain way, it has been done in that way. It also provides for appellate remedy, it provides time for 5-15 days”, Justice Gavai pointed out.
The SG stated that notices were issued for buildings.
Justice Rao then asked Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, who was representing Ganesh Gupta, whose juice business in Jahangirpuri was demolished, if his client had received prior notice of the demolition and if his client had a stall, chair, or table on the road.
The court was informed by Mr. Hegde that no notice had been issued. The Secretary of State reiterated that demolition notifications had been issued.
The Solicitor General further requested that the petitioners present the court with the facts and specifics of the demolition.
“Whether this demolition was done without notice, let the individuals come and say. Let them say notice wasn’t issued, I will show the notice”, Mr. Mehta said. He pointed out that the petition was brought by an organization rather than the parties involved.
The Bench was considering two petitions submitted by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, one challenging the demolition drive in Jahangirpuri, Delhi, and the other challenging the demolition of houses of people allegedly implicated in criminal acts such as riots in MP, UP, and Gujarat.
Following the hearing, the Court gave notice to the NDMC in the Jamiat Ulama-i-petition, Hind’s requesting a counter-affidavit within two weeks.
The status quo order against the demolition drive initiated by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) in the riot-hit Jahangirpuri neighborhood was also prolonged until further orders.
“We want affidavits from the petitioners on the notices if served and counter-affidavits on the details of the demolition and till then status quo order will continue”, Justice Rao said.
Yesterday, a bench led by CJI NV Ramana ordered a halt to the demolitions.