Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Centre takes strong stand in SC: “No community is targeted”

AG Tushar Mehta

Rebutting claims that the Centre-controlled New Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (NDMC) anti-encroachment drive targetted ‘one’ community, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said the Jahangirpuri demolition commenced with an objective to clear roads that were slated for expansion. During the hearing on the batch of pleas in the Supreme Court opposing the demolition of illegal ‘structures’ in northwest Delhi, SG Mehta pointed out the recent ‘pattern that one particular section will move a PIL on an issue and thereafter entire political spectrum joins’ the bandwagon.

“I will show you that this has become a fashion that instead of the individual approaching some organisation comes in and the political spectrum is raised,” Central government’s top law office SG Mehta said as he further affirmed, “I am not here to sensationalise but to assist.”

This holds relevance as a bench of the Apex Court comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was hearing a bunch of pleas challenging the Delhi civic body’s anti-encroachment drive that was carried out in Jahangirpuri on April 20. 

Dismissing claims NDMC-led anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri was politically motivated, SG Mehta told the Court that residents of the area were already served a notice prior to the demolition. 

While Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of petitioners opposing the drive, argued that a government-ordered drive against encroachments cannot be accorded to ‘one community’, SG Mehta mentioned that no one individual will come to oppose the move but ‘suddenly organisations’ join hands to oppose the BJP-ruled Centre.

‘Encroachments are not limited to a and b communities. You cannot just demolish houses saying they are encroaching. This forum is to show that tule of law prevails,” Sibal argued. To which, SG Mehta said, “So far, Delhi Jahangirpuri is concerned, the drive to remove that was lying on the road had started in January itself.”

SG Mehta pointed out that there exist previous Delhi High Court orders regarding the removal of encroachments and the recent drive was not a residue or vengeance for Jahangirpuri violence during the Hanuman Jayanti procession. 

Also, Advocate Sibal mentioned to the bench that a batch of pleas have been filed owing to ‘fear’ in the public, to which, the Solicitor General said the anti-encroachment drive had begun on January 19 itself and the aim was to remove what was ‘lying on footpaths and public roads’. 

“Allegations that one community is targeted are incorrect. In Madhya Pradesh’s Khargaon (Ram Navami clashes), which has become a topic of all debates, 88 affected parties are Hindus, I am sorry I have to bifurcate them, the government doesn’t want to but I am being compelled to,” SG Mehta argued. 

While Sibal mentioned the apprehension of other states ordering to bulldoze structures SG Mehta submitted that even in the Madhya Pradesh demolition drive, notices by the civic body were issued to people in 2021 and 2022. 

“We will take a serious view of the demolition that took place after information was given to the Mayor,” Justice Rao said while stating that the interim stay order passed on April 20 should prevail. Subsequently, the Supreme Court issued a notice in all the petitions filed pertaining to the Jahangirpuri demolition case. 

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