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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

From Jahangirpuri to Haldwani, Supreme Court’s discriminatory handling of illegal encroachment cases

The Supreme Court has, as usual, come to the aid of samuday vishesh staying the land recovery drive in Haldwani, Uttarakhand. Media and vested interests have made it out to be a BJP vs Muslims issue to paint the latter as victims and legalise encroachment. The SC has fallen into the trap, knowingly or unknowingly, and not only stayed the eviction drive but directed the government to provide rehabilitation as well.

Land jihad, another form of warfare Islamists have waged on Bharat, hasn’t been discussed much or brought to public attention like grooming jihad. Reports of Islamists encroaching the hillsides of Uttarakhand with mazars and other illegal constructions are emerging only now. It appears to be a concerted attempt to change the demography and occupy religiously and security-wise important places. Yet, neither the local administration nor the governments seem to be paying any attention to it.

Which is how the Haldwani issue has come to be. A spectacular failure of state and central government officials in recognising and establishing their boundaries led to the encroachment of the concerned property. It is aiding the encroachers in arguing that if the land belongs to the railways how government schools, hospitals and overhead water tanks could have been built. It is flabbergasting that SC also has taken this line of argument in defense of the encroachers.

The judiciary could not be ignorant of corruption in bureaucracy and lower levels of government machinery. Just because some corrupt officials allowed encroachment, it can’t very well go on. But that is exactly what the SC is encouraging by seeking the government to rehabilitate the encroachers. But the encroachers have gone to the next level, perhaps sensing the government’s reluctance to take action against “street power” and the judiciary’s blind eye to arm-twisting methods.

Even as the judges directed the government to arrange rehabilitation for the encroachers, the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) submitted that they did not want rehabilitation and claimed the land to be their own. Liberation Theologist Colin Gonsalves, urban Naxals Prashant Bhushan, et al and Congressi Saman Kurshid, who appeared for the encroachers, claimed that they had government leases and many properties were on “nazul” lands to prove their legality. Even if that is the case, and SC had accepted that the property does belong to the railways, the petitioners can occupy the land only as long as the railways permit them to.

The railways can recover the land whenever it is in need and they should vacate the land. If railways had to break the lease, if it was the institution that leased it in the first place, then rehabilitation can be sought. But it appears that even though railways offered rehabilitation, encroachers refused it, claiming they bought the land in auctions. The SC has only strengthened their(encroachers) conviction by making comments like “there cannot be uprooting 50,000 people in 7 days”. The comment makes it look like people are plucked from their homes inhumanely for government projects and plays right into the international gallery of Leftist and Islamist cabal.

It is pertinent to note that while the SC took up the Haldwani issue within days, despite the obvious threat to lives in the Joshimath issue, it refused to hear the matter urgently, saying “everything important in this country need not come to us”. But this is not the first time the judiciary pandered to Muslims and trampled Hindu rights. Politicians alone cannot be blamed for minority appeasement as the judiciary has come to the aid of Islamists from Shaheen Bhag to Haldwani. Its contribution to further discourage the state from dealing street power with a firm hand in farmer protests cannot be missed either.

In 2021, the same SC had criticised railways for allowing encroachments to take place in the first place and lamented that encroaching government properties has been “a sad reality for 75 years”. SC made this observation while hearing a PIL seeking rehabilitation in a similar eviction drive of railways. It criticised the local administration and state government for letting the property be encroached. But it also directed the railways to arrange for solatium and other forms of rehabilitation for those who were to be evicted.

While the SC thinks that it is a human issue and orders government to rehabilitate the “eligible and deserving”, it is actually ceding ground to those who have realised and shown the strength of street power. If the encroachers, the eligible and deserving among them, are provided rehabilitation, the Leftist and Islamist cabal will again find something to crib about. They will claim that Muslims intentionally were left out even if they had encroached on the land illegally. One might recall how civil society came to Muslims’ help in the Jahangirpuri eviction drive.

Even though shops of Hindus, who had documents to show ownership, were demolished, it was made out to be an anti-Muslim drive and SC obligingly stayed it for 2 weeks. The Assam eviction drive also comes to mind during which Assam police were attacked by illegal immigrants who had encroached on government and temple land. Encroachers were promised by some people that officials and politicians would be paid off and will be protected from eviction.

In another case of railway land encroachment the same SC had opined “being below poverty line doesn’t give exception to not abiding law”. At another instant the SC was exasperated that it was smothered with PILs and criticised the state governments for letting properties be encroached in the first place. “Clearing encroachments is state’s duty and courts cannot be expected to make decisions for them”, SC said while hearing a PIL regarding eviction drive around the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjaini, Madhya Pradesh. But now the SC feels it has responsibility to defend the encroachers in Haldwani.

In the Khori Gaon eviction drive also the SC had conveniently turned a blind eye to ‘inhumane’ actions of the government. In fact, the judiciary was more strict about evicting one lakh people from the concerned area than the government despite UN Human Rights Council’s intervention. While it is commendable that the judiciary did not bow down to pressure exerted by international institutions, it does show the stark reality of the judiciary’s discriminating attitude towards different communities.

Whether it is providing rehabilitation or continuing status quo, it will be government lands and resources that will be lost and as the SC itself observed in the 2021 judgement on a railway land encroachment case, it will only hinder development as resources and funds are diverted to the encroachers. Only a complete overhaul of the bureaucracy and judicial system can make sure that they work for the state’s interest and force the executive to do the same.

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  1. In Israel, Netanyahu Govt. gas passed a bill restricting Supreeme Court’s right to infringe on Govt. policies, enforcement of new laws and actions. Sometimes, we feel that this is necessary in a democratic setup.


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