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In an unfortunate incident that took place last night, six NUJS students were groped and brutally assaulted by a mob of goons hired by the government contractor in charge of demolition of the Subhas Sarovar slums. After the students of NUJS Kolkata obtained a stay order of Calcutta High Court on the demotion of slum housing.

Narrating the sequence of events, the Student Juridical Association, NUJS, in it’s official Press Release, said that despite the stay order, the contractors demolished the slums at which point NUJS students went to the contractors with the copy of the Court order. On being confronted, the order was torn up, following which the female students were groped by multiple goons and the male students were grievously assaulted till they were unconscious. Their phones were smashed and destroyed and when they tried to escape, the gates of the area, which is a fenced enclosure, were shut.

Terming the incident as manhandling of collective conscience, the student association wrote:

“we, as the law school fraternity, must stand together against this complete obliteration of the rule of law that we seek to defend and practice. We sincerely hope that in this hour of need, our collective conscience will inspire us to participate in defending and echoing the common ideals of liberty and rule of law that bind us together.”

As per the latest update, the Calcutta High Court has immediately ordered the state for rehabilitation of the evicted slum dwellers within 24 hours and has issued a contempt of court notice against perpetrators.

Last month, the public interest team at Increasing Diversity By Increasing Access (IDIA) comprising of NUJS students had obtained a stay on slum demolitions in Kolkata’s Subhas Sarovar area.

As part of its beautification project, the West Bengal state government planned to demolish the slums in the area, which would render around twenty-two families living there for more than a decade, homeless. Three of the slum dwellers, including octogenarian Shiv Shankar Ray, sought to file a petition before the Calcutta High Court challenging the government’s decision. The petition was drafted by the IDIA team comprising of NUJS students– which received help from pro bono lawyers practising at the High Court.


Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Observing that construction of illegal shrines on pathways and streets was in no way an integral part of any religion so as to be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution, a Bench comprising of Abhay Oka and Ahmed Sayed, JJ ordered the State Government to demolish all such structures that have been identified as “illegal” by the year end. The Court was hearing a PIL which sought implementation of a 2009 Supreme Court order which said that the State must demolish or regularise illegal shrines.
The Bench stated that Article 25 of the Constitution, which pertains to practise and propagation of religion, does not confer the right to offer worship at any place which has been built illegally. The Bench also made reference to the Supreme Court ruling in Sodan Singh v. NDMC(1989) 4 SCC 155, wherein the Court had expressly stated that no one can create any unreasonable obstruction on the road, which may cause inconvenience to other persons having a similar right to pass. The Court reiterated that structures that cause inconvenience to public, violate Article 21 of the Constitution.
No religion encourages its followers to construct illegal shrines or offer prayers at illegally-constructed shrines, the Court stated and thereby directed the government to initiate criminal action against people, especially religious or political leaders, who try to obstruct the demolition. The Court also asked the Police Commissioners of Mumbai and other cities to provide adequate protection to the civic staff during the demolition. [Mahesh Vijay Bedekar v. State of Maharashtra, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 8894, decided on September 20, 2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In the much awaited Adarsh Society judgment a special Bench of RV More and RG Ketkar, JJ., relying upon MI Builders Private Limited v. Radhey Shyam Sahu (1999) 6 SCC 464 and Shanti Sports Club v. Union of India (2009) 15 SCC 705, directed MoEF to demolish Adarsh building, that was held to be unauthorized and in violation of of Environment Protection Act and Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act. The court also directed UOI and Gov. of Maharashtra to consider initiating appropriate civil/criminal and departmental proceedings against the concerned bureaucrats, and ministers who misused their powers in acquiring the plot for Adarsh building.

The court found that the petitioners have neither obtained clearance from MoEF or from State level agency as required under the 1991 Coastal Regulation Zone notification, nor the mandatory recommendations of Maharashtra Coastal Management Authority. Moreover, the court held that the letters communicated between 11.03.2003 and 15.03.2003 did not constitute any clearance whatsoever. It was also found that Development Control Rules, 1967 were applicable in the present case and as against permissible FSI of 1.33, petitioners have consumed FSI to the extent of 2.932. Also, petitioners’ claims of violation of natural justice were rejected, for they failed to prove any prejudice suffered, and the authorities concerned were found acting fairly, impartially and reasonably. On the controversial allotment of flats, the court observed that it was clearly marked by  favoritism and nepotism.

The Court further directed petitioners to pay Rs.1,00,000/- each to Dr. A. Senthil Vel, Mr. Thirunavukarasu, Mr. T. C. Benjamin and Mr. Sitaram Kunte to ensure that no baseless allegations are levelled against officers. Also, State of Maharashtra was directed to resume the subject plot within four weeks. However, the court stayed its order for a period of 12 weeks so that the petitioners can appeal to Supreme court, but ensured that no further request for extension of time will be entertained. [Adarsh Co-op Housing Society Ltd v Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 2583, decided on 29.04.2016]

*Picture Credits- Indian express