The Supreme Court on Thursday offered temporary respite to those facing evictions in Haldwani, Uttarakhand in the wake of a High Court order directing removal of encroachments on Indian Railways land..In a development that the apex court described as "troubling", the eviction order would have led to the displacement of more than 4,000 families in the area..And this is not the first time in the recent past where Constitutional courts have had to interfere to either stay demolition drives or order compensation to those whose homes and establishments have been razed to the ground.In these cases, the courts reprimanded the heavy-handedness of the authorities responsible for such demolition drives, in the interest of hapless people who were termed as encroachers..Here’s a look at some recent instances where courts have dealt with demolitions and evictions..1. A human angle.Social media was flooded with reports and visuals of residents of Banphoolpura, a locality in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, taking out candle light vigils and holding protests on the streets after the Uttarakhand High Court ordered eviction of encroachments on land belonging to the Railways. The moot point was their right to reside on the land in question. The people accused the State government of not putting up a proper fight before the High Court, which had ordered their eviction on December 20, 2022..After the representatives of the soon-to-be-displaced families knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court of India, the matter was stated to have a “human angle” to it, besides entailing the prospect of rehabilitation. The Supreme Court, therefore, stayed the High Court direction till further orders. Broadly, the issue before the High Court was whether there was unauthorised occupancy on the land belonging to the Railways. The question was whether the property belonged to the Railways or to those claiming ownership rights on the basis of documents dating back to 1907 deeming it to be a “nazul” property or land under the administrative control of a State agency such as the Land Reforms Commissioner or the Forest/Irrigation Department..The High Court, however, held that the document in question was an Office Memorandum, which did not confer any right to the residents. It was only a document for the purposes of executive management of the property, it said.In addition, the leases which were relied upon to claim ownership by the applicants would have had sale or transfer rights under the Transfer of Property Act and were not leases of nazul property, as the Office Memorandum restricted the lease to a right of enjoyment.The applicants were thus held to be "unauthorised occupants” and given a week’s notice to vacate the premises..When the matter reached the top court, a Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka frowned upon the manner in which the State dealt with a situation where people had been living in these lands for about 60-70 years. Rehabilitation was something the apex court was particular about when it ordered a stay on the High Court's directions..2. "Nobody is safe in this country if this kind of action is permitted".In a suo motu public interest litigation it registered after the local police bulldozed the house of a resident at Nagaon, Assam, the Gauhati High Court ordered compensation for the man.The case stemmed from an alleged incident of torching of a police station after a local died in police custody. The police, it was alleged, had bulldozed the houses of some of the locals accused in the incident.A Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Chhaya voiced strong concerns over the trend of bulldozing houses of accused persons under the guise of investigation."Only because they are head of the police department, they cannot break anyone's house. Nobody is safe in this country if this kind of action is permitted," the Court observed during the hearing..On the orders issued by a Superintendent of Police to raze the homes of the accused, Chief Justice Chhaya went on to remark,“I have not come across a police officer using bulldozer by way of a search warrant.”.The Court's intervention prompted the State government to form a committee headed by its Chief Secretary to enquire into the incident and take requisite action against the erring officials.The Court also directed the State to compensate the aggrieved party and called the police action “illegal”. The matter was put to rest with an order to file a status report on the issue. .3. "Tamasha ban diya hai (made it a spectacle)".The Bihar Police came under heavy criticism of the Patna High Court for choosing to bulldoze a woman’s house in the Agamkuan area in relation to a land dispute. .The proceeding, which was aired online, had the judge fuming over the bulldozing of the woman’s property by the police, which had apparently acted on a complaint of encroachment against her. The Court came to note that the police had not give any notice to the woman and scathingly remarked that it was hand-in-glove with the local land mafia, and was acting without any due process of law."Bulldozer? Kya yaha bhi bulldozer chalane laga? Aisa kaun powerful aadmi hai jo aap bulldozer leke ghar todne chale gaye inka? Whom do you represent State or private person? Tamasha bana diya hai ke kisi ka ghar bulldozer se tod denge [Has bulldozer started running here too? Who is that powerful person (on whose complaint) you are razing someone's house with a bulldozer? Have you made it a spectacle that you will demolish anyone's house with a bulldozer]," a miffed Justice Sandeep Kumar remarked..4. Demolition for negligence.A hospital in Prayagraj made headlines for all the wrong reasons in October 2022 after administering fruit juice instead of blood platelets to a patient down with dengue, leading to his death. The incident prompted the local administration to seal the building where the hospital was operating from and issue a notice of demolition.The building owner who had leased her property to the hospital moved the Allahabad High Court against the demolition..The State argued that the petitioner could file objections raising all her grievances along with a map of the house in question for it to be examined by the local administration.While the Bench allowed the petitioner to approach the authorities to make a representation, it ordered no coercive action in the meantime. The Court also asked the State to offer the petitioner a reasonable opportunity to be heard and file a compounding application. In case, any partition of the property was found to be compoundable, the administration was at liberty to proceed accordingly. .5. Serious view of demolition carried out even after court orders.The Supreme Court had in April last year ordered status quo on the demolition drive being carried out by the North-Delhi Municipal Corporation in the riot-hit Jahangirpuri area. A day after, the Bench hearing the matter expressed its displeasure over the fact that its order was not being adhered to. A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai said,"We will take a serious view of the demolition which was carried out even after Supreme Court orders, even after NDMC Mayor was informed. We will take that up later."The apex court directed the petitioners to disclose on affidavit whether they were served notices before the demolition drive took place. According to several residents, there was no prior notice or intimation of the demolition drive given by the civic authorities..The NDMC, on the other hand, contended the drive was carried out to “clear pedestrian walkways and roads from encroachments to ease the traffic and pedestrian movement”.The Corporation also said that such encroachment removal drives on public roads were regularly carried out in all wards or zones with or without notice under various sections of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 with prior intimation to local police.However, the petitioners had raised doubts over the need for the demolition drive and argued that under the Act, no demolition could take place until the person had been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard.The Bench during the hearing also wondered if removal of stalls, chairs and tables, required the use of a bulldozer by the civic body. Justice Gavai asked,"To remove these you need a bulldozer?"