Demolition Drives and Article 300A

Demolition Drives and Article 300A

News: The nation has been witnessing a frenzy of demolition drives for the past few weeks. Article 300A of the Indian Constitution categorically states ‘No person shall be deprived of his property save by the authority of law’.

Concerns surrounding such Demolition Drives:
• The right to housing is a fundamental right recognized under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
• Article 11.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises ‘the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions’.
• Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also provides that everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. Thus, arbitrary interference with an individual’s property is a gross violation of the ICCPR.

Supreme Court Judgements in this context:
• In the Olga Tellis and others vs Bombay Municipal Corporation and others (1985) the Supreme Court opined that the eviction of pavement dwellers using unreasonable force, without giving them a chance to explain, is unconstitutional. It is a violation of their right to livelihood.
• In the Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana vs Inderjit Singh (2008), the apex court categorically stated that if the requirement of giving notice is provided under a municipal legislation, then this requirement must be necessarily complied with. The Apex Court of the country has made it unambiguously clear that no authority can directly proceed with demolitions, even of illegal constructions, without providing notice and an opportunity of being heard to the occupant.

Way Forward?
• As the custodian of India’s constitutional order, it is high time that the judiciary acted and imposed necessary checks on the unbridled exercise of power by the executive.
• Any justification for a demolition drive, as a penal consequence to a criminal act is totally against established canons of criminal justice. The conduct of demolition drives, as a retaliatory measure, even with the avowed object to curb violence is a clear act of subversion of the principle of rule of law.

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