HC halts Nuh demolitions by Haryana, asks if govt action is ‘ethnic cleansing’
The Punjab and Haryana high court has stayed the demolition drives in Nuh and Gurugram, questioning if it is an "exercise of ethnic cleansing" by the state.
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday stayed the Haryana administration’s demolition drives in strife-torn Nuh and Gurugram, observed that the law-and-order situation is being “used as a ruse” to pull buildings without due process, and asked if the action is an “exercise of ethnic cleansing” by the state.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the demolition exercise, which began in Nuh last Thursday, three days after communal violence erupted in the district on July 30, the court also asked the Haryana government to furnish details of how many structures were razed and if any notices were issued before the demolitions. Since the drive began, the Nuh administration has torn down at least 750 properties, said officials. No properties have been demolished in Gurugram.
“Apparently, without any demolition orders and notices, the law-and-order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law,” said a bench of justices Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeewan.
“The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State,” the bench added in its order.
The Nuh administration began tearing through allegedly illegal and unauthorised structures in the district after clashes broke out during a Hindu religious procession organised by the Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad.
The trigger for the violence, according to a police officer, were videos suggesting that Bajrang Dal member and cow vigilante Monu Manesar, wanted for murdering two Muslim men in Haryana’s Bhiwani this February, would also be a part of the procession. He did not, however, not turn up at the procession.
Tensions soon spread to other districts, including Gurugram, where a mosque was burnt and a cleric killed, and several shops pillaged on Tuesday. Mobs also threatened migrant workers and residents of slums, many of whom have, over the past few days left their houses and headed back to their hometowns.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, during a press conference on August 2, assured the victims of justice, and said that the people who caused the losses to private property are liable to compensate.
“So, we will compensate for the loss to public property...for the private property, compensation will be collected from those who are liable for it,” he said.
The state in 2021 passed the Haryana Recovery of Damages Act, which allows the administration to collect compensation for damage to public property from people involved in the destruction.
The court on Monday summoned the state’s advocate general and questioned him about the reports about the demolitions published in the media.
The advocate general, BR Mahajan, informed the court that action was taken following the “due process in the law.”
Dissatisfied, the court issued verbal orders to halt the exercise and said it was taking suo motu notice of the news reports.
Asking the administration for an affidavit detailing the number of buildings demolished over the past two weeks in Nuh and Gurugram, the court said: “We are of the considered opinion that the Constitution of India protects the citizens of this country and no demolitions as such can be done without following the procedure prescribed in law.”Als