Hearing a petition against Jahangirpuri’s anti-encroachment campaign, the Supreme Court made clear on Thursday that it was considering whether or not due process had been followed before authorities embarked on the campaign.
Issuing a notice of the petition along with another plea challenging anti-encroachment campaigns in other states, a panel of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai also ordered that the court-ordered status quo in the Jahangirpuri case continues.
“If the law says something has to be done in a particular way… (was) it done or not… That’s all… It also provides for an appeal tribunal, and the time limit is 5 to 15 days , not less than 5 days and more than 15 days,” Judge Gavai remarked.
He said this when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North MCD) and the Delhi Police, hit back at accusations that the action was aimed at punishing those who participated in the April 16 communal violence and argued that the notice had been issued before the conduct was performed.
After being told by the plaintiffs’ lawyer that they had informed the mayor of North MCD of Wednesday’s order – a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana ordered the status quo – and that the anti-encroachment campaign continued even after that, Judge Rao said, “We will also take seriously the demolitions that took place after informing the mayor. We’ll think about that a bit later.
Refuting accusations that the notice was not sent to the relevant parties, Mehta said, “A notice has been issued… The government is also concerned about maintaining the rule of law, we are also required to maintain Delhi Municipal Corporation Act…Let them say that A, B, CD houses or whatever was outside (in) the periphery was demolished because they participated in the riots, let -them come and tell”.
“That’s not the issue,” Judge Gavai replied, adding that the question is whether the legal provisions were followed.
Mehta, however, insisted that the notice be issued according to the rules. “Unless your Lordships are informed that this demolition was done without notice – they usually come to say that nothing in the country should happen except according to the law – that an individual comes and says … that the notice does not was not served on me, I will place the notice on file.
The bench then said it would ask anyone affected to file affidavits and the status quo would continue.
Mehta also refuted allegations that the MCD du Nord had called the action at 9 am instead of the scheduled 2 pm, knowing that the matter was going to be raised before the CJI. He explained that the 2 p.m. was to start demolitions on April 19 while the time for the April 20 drive was 9 a.m. according to the letter from the North MCD, adding that he was explaining it “just to eliminate prejudice “.
However, the court refused to issue a general order to stop the demolitions across the country.