Deccan Chronicle

DC EDIT | Bulldozers: SC's signal to UP govt crystal clear

Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent

Published on: June 17, 2022 | Updated on: June 17, 2022

The court made it clear that it hardly mattered who approached the court as long as their case merited legal consideration

Supreme Court of India. (PTI)

Supreme Court of India. (PTI)

There is, in fact, nothing new in what the Supreme Court told the Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday: Any action by the government should be in accordance with the law; there cannot be retaliatory demolitions; the rule of law should prevail. The court’s unequivocal and forceful comments came with regard to the Uttar Pradesh government’s latest run over the law, demolishing houses and buildings which the government thought belonged to the people who had a role in the violence in Kanpur and Prayagraj while protesting the allegedly defamatory statements of now-suspended BJP spokespersons on Prophet Muhammad. The court asked the government to show restraint and directed it not to go ahead with further demolitions before it decided if it followed due process of law before embarking on such steps.

The apex court’s intervention is welcome but the fact remains that the bulldozers of several state governments and the municipal corporations in Delhi, all ruled by the BJP, razed far too many houses and buildings before it was thought fit for them to be advised to follow the basics of the law. At the same time, it is refreshing and reassuring that the court rejected every argument, including the one about third parties approaching the court based only on media reports that the state government advanced to justify its acts. The court made it clear that it hardly mattered who approached the court as long as their case merited legal consideration.

India has been independent for the last 75 years but it is unfortunate that the highest court of the land had to tell its governments that there cannot be retaliatory justice. It’s a crude reminder that the fundamentals of constitutional democracy are yet to take firm roots in this country and people who think on the lines of khap panchayats with their received wisdom on instant justice get to move the levers of power.

It is now up to the proponents of the bulldozer raj to decide if they want to follow the rulebook or go ahead with their versions of it. The petitioners had pointed out in the court that most demolitions happened after senior government functionaries boasted about retaliatory justice, an idea which is alien to modern jurisprudence. The bureaucracy which is paid to act lawfully went along gleefully and has never regretted it; they will also have to do a rethink on what they have been doing to the basic doctrine of governance. Both groups of trigger-happy people must be told that should they invent new means to go ahead with their designs, they will fall foul not only of their own laws but also be guilty of contempt of court. Now that the Supreme Court has made its stand clear, it must also keep a watchful eye on developments and ensure that justice is done per its directives. Attempts to violate them would not be taken lightly.

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