Deploying bulldozers to target the houses of the accused in criminal cases and political opponents has been a disturbing trend, fraught with communal overtones. The ‘bulldozer justice’, being mastered by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, is a direct assault on the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens. What is appalling is the way the […]
Deploying bulldozers to target the houses of the accused in criminal cases and political opponents has been a disturbing trend, fraught with communal overtones. The ‘bulldozer justice’, being mastered by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, is a direct assault on the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens. What is appalling is the way the BJP leaders are justifying the demolition drives, positioning them as tough measures against anti-social elements. The latest episode involved razing to the ground the house of a political activist Mohammad Javed in Prayagraj, accused of conspiracy in the June 10 violence after the Friday protests against BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks on the Prophet. This came a day after the bulldozer demolished ‘illegal construction’ in the residences of two accused of Friday’s violence in Saharanpur. There is a clear and sordid pattern in the ongoing bulldozer campaign. In an ecosystem where violations of municipal and urban planning laws are rampant, bulldozers are being used to selectively punish and subdue. This year has seen a string of demolitions in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh in clear violation of basic rights. The weird idea of serving ‘justice’, quick and cold, through bulldozers first emanated in Uttar Pradesh. In the wake of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the UP government passed orders to recover damages from those who were allegedly involved in destroying public property. It must be pointed out that as per Article 300A of the Constitution, no person shall be deprived of his property by the authority of law.
The right to housing is a fundamental right recognised under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is also a well-documented right under the international human rights law framework, which is binding on India. As the custodian of constitutional order, the courts should use international law to counter the nationalist-populist discourse. Any justification for a demolition drive as a penal consequence of a criminal act is totally against established canons of criminal justice. The conduct of demolition drives, as a retaliatory measure, even with the avowed objective to curb violence is a clear act of subversion of the principle of rule of law. In a constitutional democracy, the bulldozer on a rampage becomes the symbol of a brutal executive. This brutish bulldozer policy, initiated by the UP government, has spread to other States like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Tripura and Gujarat. It is now under substantive challenge in three courts — Supreme Court, Allahabad High Court and Madhya Pradesh High Court. It has been challenged as a violation of due process and fundamental rights. It is time for appropriate judicial intervention to uphold the constitutional rights and check the excesses of the Executive.