The Gauhati High Court saw the “filmy” side of a demolition drive in Assam while pulling up the State police for bulldozing the houses of people accused of arson in May.
Hearing a case relating to the razing of the houses of five Muslims accused of setting the Batadrava police station in Nagaon district on fire, the court said using excavators and bulldozers to demolish houses “in the guise of investigation” was not provided in any criminal law.
“Even if a very serious matter is being investigated by an agency, permission is required for bulldozing a house. Will you dig up my courtroom in the name of the investigation if you say something is under the court? It seems nobody in this country is safe,” Chief Justice R.M. Chhaya said after the government’s counsel argued the case.
“This is a democratic set-up. How can you do it (bulldoze)?” he asked, insisting “even Lord Macaulay would not have thought of” what the police undertook without any warrant.
In a lighter vein, the Chief Justice said Bollywood films are careful enough to show actors handing over notices or demolition orders before bulldozers are used.
“Such things (bulldozing as punishment) happen only in Rohit Shetty movies. Send your SP’s story to director Rohit Shetty. He can make a film on this,” he told the government’s counsel.
Leena Doley was the SP (Superintendent of Police) of Nagaon district when the houses of the five accused were demolished on May 22, less than 24 hours after an irate mob torched the Batadrava police station.
The mob, comprising scores of women, had attacked the police station after a villager, a fish seller named Safikul Islam allegedly died in police custody for refusing to bribe the men in uniform. The police claimed the man was picked up in a drunken state and was released after a medical check-up.
The police justified the demolition by claiming the houses were built illegally on land encroached upon and later acquired with forged documents.
Ashiqul Islam, one of the accused in the arson case died in police custody on May 30, apparently run over by a police vehicle while trying to escape.