For Vadodara?s sake, SC stops demolitions | india | Hindustan Times
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For Vadodara?s sake, SC stops demolitions

ACTING ON a plea from the Centre, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Gujarat High Court order of May 2, which had directed civic authorities of Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat to remove all religious structures encroaching upon public land.

india Updated: May 05, 2006 01:35 IST

ACTING ON a plea from the Centre, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Gujarat High Court order of May 2, which had directed civic authorities of Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat to remove all religious structures encroaching upon public land.

The HC order, which had come a day after mobs clashed with the police over the demolition of a 200-year-old dargah in Vadodara, had led to a fresh round of violence in the city. On Wednesday, the army was deployed after the situation threatened to turn communal. Six people were killed in the violence that persisted for three days.

The SC order was welcomed in Vadodara, which remained peaceful on Thursday — mainly because of flag marches by the army and the deployment of paramilitary forces.

The Centre, through a special leave petition, drew the attention of the SC to the repercussions of the HC order both for Gujarat and the rest of the country.

The Centre said in its petition: “…in view of the extremely volatile situation prevalent in Vadodara, it is in the interests of justice that the impugned order is stayed….” The Centre said if the demolition drive continued, the situation in Vadodara would turn “uncontrollable”. A bench of justices Ruma Pal and Dalveer Bhandari then stayed the HC order and issued notices to the concerned Gujarat authorities, seeking their response.

The Centre said in the petition that it was filing the plea as it was “interested in ensuring that the law and order situation in Gujarat does not go out of hand” and the move was not an “adversarial” litigation.

The petition contested the HC order on several grounds. It said the HC had taken suo motu cognisance of “unverified” newspaper reports about illegal religious structures and directed their demolition.

The Centre said the HC had no material before it showing the number of such structures in the city and whether any of them fell under the protected category. "…the HC to act on the basis of a news item on a purported survey by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, particularly without even adjudging the impact of the said order on the present state of communal harmony and without exploring alternative means of removing unauthorised structures, lends the said order liable to challenge," the petition said.

The petition said before undertaking any demolition of the constructions, which are religious places and therefore sensitive, there must be thorough scrutiny and classification.

"If the (HC) order is allowed to operate, it would have serious and grave consequences on the law and order situation in Gujarat and this may also have repercussions in other states and consequently on the secular fabric of the nation," the petition said.

Vadodara police commissioner Deepak Swaroop told HT: "The city is not limping back (to normal) because that implies ups and downs. It is slowly and steadily coming back to normality."

Curfew was relaxed for a few hours in the afternoon for women and children. "If there are no incidents, we'll relax the curfew for the men on Friday. And you'll have the city back to normal the day after that," Swaroop said.