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In a petition challenging the recent forceful eviction of thousands of migrant workers near Marathahalli in Bangalore, the Karnataka High Court yesterday passed an interim stay on the demolition drive purportedly conducted by civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Bengaluru Police.
The demolition of houses was carried out by the local authorities on the pretext that these migrant workers were “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants”.
On this point, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar questioned the respondents on the source of such a claim.
The Court further directed the BBMP officials and Bengaluru Police to submit a detailed report explaining the grounds and the rules under which the demolition of houses was carried out.
When asked which agency conducted the demolition, BBMP stated that it has not carried out the same. On this aspect, the High Court directed the City Police Commissioner to conduct an inquiry to find out who was responsible for the eviction and the demolition.
The PIL filed by People's Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) states that the residents of the property in question are from extremely poor backgrounds and have migrated from parts of Karnataka and other states in search of jobs to sustain their livelihood. They had been residing there with their families for the past 5-10 years, the petition notes.
The PIL further observes that the respondents in the matter are supposed to protect these vulnerable groups, rather than exploit them. In this regard, the petition states,
It is submitted that there are approximately 5,000 residents who reside in the property in question. The residents of the Property in question belong to economically backward sections of society and are migrant labours who have migrated to Bengaluru from various parts of the country in search of employment and a better life. They have been deprived of the basic amenities like water and drainage and a decent home and instead efforts are being made to illegally evict them. These are the most vulnerable of persons who are to be protected by the respondents and the State. Instead, steps are being taken which would render entire families homeless and even more vulnerable.
PIL challenging eviction of migrant workers
The petition further points out that the respondents had no answer to provide when asked why such a massive step was being taken to conduct the eviction of these migrants. The only statement provided by the BBMP was that the residents would have to vacate the premises themselves, failing which they would be forcefully evicted.
The petitioner further submits that the eviction which was conducted on January 18 and 19. During the demolition process, children were pulled out of their homes, and people were assaulted and verbally abused, the petition notes.
The petitioner also acres that the notice issued by the Bengaluru Police on January 11, which claimed that Bangladeshi immigrants are residing in the said area, was based on certain WhatsApp videos. The notice has been challenged as being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. It is also argued that the same is void due to lack of jurisdiction, as the land in question was privately owned.
The petitioners further bring to the attention of the Court that no order was issued by any Statutory Authority for the demolition of the said houses.
That the right under Article 21 can only be deprived by way of a just fair and reasonable procedure established by law, which is absent in the present case. No order was issued by any statutory authority for the demolition of the said property.
PIL challenging eviction of migrant workers
Furthermore, the notice issued by BBMP in this regard on January 18 reeks of arbitrariness and shows lack of authority of law, thus violating Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India, the petition asserted.
The Court has directed the respondents to file their objections by January 30.
Advocate Maitreyi Krishnan is appearing on behalf of the petitioners. The petition has been filed through Advocate Aarti Mundkur.
This act on the part of BBMP has come in the backdrop of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), that has sparked protests across the country.
Petitions challenging the controversial legislation are pending before the Supreme Court. Yesterday, while hearing a batch of over 140 petitions challenging the CAA, the Supreme Court hinted that it may refer the matter to a Constitution Bench.
The Court, however, passed no orders on stay of the implementation of the Act or any of the exercises it stipulates.
[Read the petition here]