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Prayagraj demolition falls foul of Allahabad HC order, says former CJ

India News

The Prayagraj Development Authority’s decision to demolish political activist and businessman Mohammad Javed’s house on June 12, after serving just a day’s notice to vacate, goes against a 2020 ruling of the Allahabad High Court, which issued a directive to Uttar Pradesh government to allow a 30-day window from issuing a notice.

“The State authorities, wherever demolition orders are passed in respect of constructions raised on private properties under the two Acts, should wait from taking any action for actual demolition till the statutory period of appeal comes to an end,” Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Pankaj Bhatia had said in their ruling in Abbas Ansari and Another versus State Of Uttar Pradesh case in October 2020 .

The two legislation referred  in the ruling are UP Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973, and UP (Regulation of Building Operations) Act, 1958.

“The directions in the case have not been followed by the state. There is an apparent violation of law in taking action before 30 days of serving the notice,” Justice Govind Mathur, who was the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court then, told The Indian Express.

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On June 12, Prayagraj Development Authority had invoked Section 27 of UP Urban Planning and Development Act to demolish Javed’s house after serving only a day’s notice to vacate the house. The provision gives the municipal authorities power to order demolition of a building if it is found to be in contravention of the masterplan, or is without requisite permission or approval under law.

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While the municipal authorities said a show cause notice was issued on May 10, it claimed that a notice to voluntarily remove the encroachment was issued on May 25. However, Javed’s family and his lawyer, K K Rai, have denied receiving any notices before the night of June 10.

Emails sent to Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) vice-chairman Arvind Kumar Chauhan, PDA secretary Ajeet Kumar Singh, and District Magistrate Sanjay Khatri seeking clarification on the court’s directive of October 15, 2020, and the action taken by the administration, did not elicit a response.

In the Abbas Ansari ruling, the court acknowledged that the UP government is carrying out demolitions without allowing property owners the time to appeal in several instances.

“Before parting with the case, we have noticed that a large number of cases are being filed before this court, complaining of demolitions being carried out even before the expiry of prescribed period for filing of an appeal, coupled with the fact that the statutes namely U.P. Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973 as well as U.P. (Regulation of Building Operations) Act, 1958, provide for an alternative remedy of an appeal within 30 days, we deem it appropriate to issue general mandamus in respect of actions being taken under the two statutes in the entire State,” the court said.

The HC had directed Registrar General of the court to forward a copy of the order to UP Chief Secretary to ensure compliance by vice-chairpersons of all development authorities and DMs in UP.

Section 27(2) of the 1973 Act states: “Any person aggrieved by an order under Sub-section (1) may appeal to the (Chairman) against that order within thirty days from the date thereof and the Chairman may, after hearing the parties to the appeal, either allow or dismiss the appeal or may reverse or vary any part of the order.” The provision states that “no such order shall be made unless the owner or person concerned has been given a reasonable opportunity to show cause why the order should not be made.”

“Till the disposal of the interim application filed in the statutory appeals the authorities should not take any steps for executing the demolition orders,” the HC held.

The UP government has filed an appeal against the Abbas Ansari ruling before the Supreme Court. On March 12, 2021, the SC agreed to hear the appeal but did not stay operation of the verdict. It has not been listed for hearing since. In January 2021, Allahabad HC relied on the Abbas Ansari ruling in a batch of three cases and stayed a demolition notice, directing the state to maintain status quo till the appeal is disposed of.

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