In a letter released on June 14 and sent to the Supreme Court with the names of former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan and six former judges as well as some senior advocates and legal luminaries the recent repressive actions against protestors, including demolitions, in Uttar Pradesh have been called illegal. Shanti Bhushan was Law Minister during 1977-79 and had worked closely with the most senior BJP leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K.Advani who were then his cabinet colleagues.
In a different significant observation former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh Justice Govind Mathur has also called the demolition action completely illegal. Govind Mathur has a very high reputation and his opinion is valued very highly in legal circles not just in Uttar Pradesh but all over the country. In a reference to the demolition of the house belonging to the wife of a leader of the Welfare Party Javed Mohammad on June 12, Justice Mathur said, “This is totally illegal. Even if you assume for a moment that the construction was illegal, which by the way is how crores of Indians live, it is impermissible that you demolish a house on Sunday when the residents are in custody. It is not a technical question but a question of rule of law.”
Subsequently in another interview he stated that those who suffer heavily in such illegal actions are entitled to receive compensation for the loss suffered by them.
The letter by a former Law Minister and six former judges ( including Justices B. Sudarshan Reddy, V. Gopala Gowda and A.K.Ganguly of the Supreme Court and Justices A.P.Shah, K. Chandru and Mohammed Anwar of various High Courts) has appealed to the Supreme Court to take suo motto cognizance of the recent acts of bulldozing of residences of protestors, particularly in Prayagraj ( UP). The letter says instead of giving protestors a hearing, the UP administration appears to have sanctioned violence against them.
This letter says, “Videos of young men in police custody being beaten with lathis, houses of protestors being demolished without notice or any cause of action, and protestors from the minority Muslim community being chased and beaten by the police, are circulating on social media, shaking the conscience of the nation. Such a brutal clampdown by a ruling administration is an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law…It is a violation of the rights of citizens, and makes a mockery of the Constitution and fundamental rights guaranteed by the State.”
The letter has stated, “The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted leads to the clear conclusion that demolitions are a form of collective extra judicial punishment attributable to a state policy which is illegal.”
Clearly these observations of former senior judges, senior advocates and a former law minister are extremely important and one hopes that these result in further legal actions to protect basic rights of people and ensure justice to them.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include A Day in 2071, Man over Machine and Planet in Peril.