A new trend of instant punishment by deploying bulldozers to target the houses of the accused in criminal cases and political opponents is a disturbing trend, fraught with communal overtones. The ‘bulldozer justice’ being mastered by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is a direct assault on the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens. What is appalling is the way the BJP leaders are justifying the demolition drives, positioning them as tough measures against antisocial elements. The latest episode involved razing to the ground the house of political activist Mohammad Javed in Prayagraj, accused of conspiracy in the 10 June violence after the Friday protests against BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks on prophet Muhammad.
There is a clear and sordid pattern in the ongoing bulldozer campaign. In an ecosystem where violations of municipal and urban planning laws are rampant, bulldozers are being used to selectively punish members of the Muslim community. In the ongoing protest against the Agnipath scheme of the Centre, violence broke out across India. Properties, including public and private, are being damaged. But there has been no such action against protestors, most of whom belong to the majority community. It must be pointed out that, as per Article 300 A of the Constitution, no person shall be deprived of his property by the authority of law. The right to housing is a fundamental right recognised under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is also a well-documented right under the international human rights law framework, which is binding on India. As the custodian of constitutional order, the courts should use international law to counter the nationalist-populist discourse. Any justification for a demolition drive as a penal consequence of a criminal act is totally against established canons of criminal justice.