The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday ordered a halt to the demolition drive in violence-hit Nuh and asked if it was an "exercise of ethnic cleansing".
”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," the court of Justices G S Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeevan said.
"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,” said the court which took suo motu cognisance of the matter.
The high court directed the state government not to further carry out the drive without following the procedure.
The court also issued a notice of motion to the Haryana government which was accepted by Advocate General B R Mahajan. The matter has been fixed for hearing on August 11.
Several "illegally-constructed" structures have been razed by the authorities in Nuh in the past few days. Officials had said some of the buildings were used by rioters when a Vishva Hindu Parishad procession was targeted by a stone-pelting mob on July 31. It led to communal clashes that spread to Gurugram.
Six people, including two home guards and a cleric, were killed in the violence.
The high court also directed the state government to furnish an affidavit as to how many buildings have been demolished in the last two weeks, both in Nuh and Gurugram and whether any notice was issued before demolition.
”If any such demolition is to be carried out today, it should be stopped if the procedure is not followed as per law," said the court.
The court appointed advocate Kshitij Sharma as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist it on this issue.
Referring to certain news reports, the court in its order stated that demolitions are being carried out in Nuh and Gurugram.
”The action is stated to be on account of the fact that the individuals involved in the anti-social activities had made illegal constructions. The said news item would go on to show that buildings next to the hospital in the form of commercial buildings, residential buildings, restaurants which were in existence for a long time have been brought down by bulldozers.
“The news item also says that the home minister himself has said that bulldozers are part of ilaaj (treatment) since the government is probing communal violence,” said the order.
On Friday, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, while replying to a question on the use of bulldozers, had said, ”Bulldozer, wherever necessary, will be used."
"Ilaaj mein bulldozer bhi ek karavayi hai (bulldozer is part of the treatment)," Vij had said.
The court invoked historian Lord Acton's statement that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely", and said, "It was in such circumstances, it was constrained to issue notice to the State as it has come to notice that the State of Haryana is using force and is demolishing buildings on account of the fact that some riots have occurred in Gurugram and Nuh."
Stating that they were of the considered opinion that the Constitution of India protects the citizens of this country, the judges said no demolitions as such can be done without following the procedure prescribed in law.As authorities in Nuh district Sunday razed some illegal structures including a hotel from where stones were allegedly pelted on the religious procession, the high court took suo motu cognisance of the exercise and directed the state government not to carry out any further demolition.
Deputy commissioner, Nuh, Dhirender Khargata said the demolition drive in the district has been stopped following the orders of the court.
"I have ordered the officials to stop the drive against the illegal construction," he said.
In the last three days, illegal constructions have been removed from 57.5 acre of land at 37 places in the district.
As many as 162 permanent and 591 raw structures have been demolished in the district till Monday, officials said.
Meanwhile, a committee formed after a "mahapanchayat" at Tigra village in Gurugram on Monday demanded the formation of an SIT for a "fair investigation" into the killing of the Muslim cleric, claiming that some youth from the village were made scapegoats for the attack.
In a memorandum to the deputy commissioner and the police commissioner, the committee also sought an investigation into the "reasons" for the attack on the mosque.
At least four villagers were arrested after the Anjuman Masjid in sector 57 of Gurugram was attacked by a mob in the early hours of August 1, hours after the Vishva Hindu Parishad procession was attacked in adjoining Nuh district. The mahapanchayat was held to protest the arrests.
"The police have no direct or indirect evidence against them and they were only made a scapegoat...," the memorandum read, adding the arrests were made "on the basis of unfounded suspicion and false information".
It further demanded that the investigation should be completed within a week and the four people "tortured and arrested" by police released.
Deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav assured the committee that there will be an impartial inquiry into the matter.
"Action will be taken only against those who are guilty, no innocent will be harassed unnecessarily," he told the committee members.
The police said an eatery (dhaba) near Rathiwas village in Gurugram was set on fire on Saturday night.
They said an FIR was registered at the Bilaspur police station in the night itself.
They also said it arrested on Sunday night 15 people accused of violence in Sohna, who were sent to judicial custody by a court.
Meanwhile, a delegation of senior Haryana Congress leaders led by party's state unit chief Udai Bhan plan to visit Nuh on Tuesday.
The party said the purpose of the visit is to re-establish peace and brotherhood in the area.