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Bulldozer Injustice to ‘Teach a Lesson’


The use of Bulldozers on the accused of various violent incidents in the country has drawn ire from certain sections of the society who believe law shall take such decisions in a civilized society.


GS-II: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States

Dimensions of the Article

  • Bulldozer justice
  • When the state acts
  • Fundamental rights
  • An illegality
  • Need for accountability
  • Way Forward

Bulldozer justice

  • The new conventions law seems to overlook the provocation of the tempter, but finds the tempted guilty.
  • The guilty are then punished by a common judge, jury and executioner and also given double engine punishment: arrest, followed by arbitrary and retributive demolition of their residential accommodation, through what is now commonly referred to as bulldozer justice.
  • Although there are adequate provisions in the Indian Penal Code for   to act against any violator

When the state acts

  • The Constitution of India permits only a peaceful assembly without arms
  • Violence in protests cannot be justified under any circumstances, whatever the cause.
  • But, as they say, violence begets violence. And so, the state comes down on the violent protesters with a heavy hand and the apocryphal iron fist made popular a couple of years ago by a learned Supreme Court judge.
  • The state then uses its machinery, literally, in the form of bulldozers to demolish the residential premises of those believed to be indulging in violent protests.
  • The long arm of the law is employed to identify the protestors and a list is prepared of those who need to be ‘taught a lesson’.
  • A similar stratagem was used in 1984 following the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Back then, we called it genocide, while today we call it ‘teaching a lesson’.

Fundamental rights

  • Some of the violent protesters own a house or a shop or a stall but many do not.
  • Two judgments of the Supreme Court from Uttar Pradesh consider shelter as a fundamental right. In U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad vs Friends Coop. Housing Society Ltd (1996) it was held that “The right to shelter is a fundamental right, which springs from the right to residence assured in Article 19(1)(e) and the right to life under Article 21 (of the Constitution)”.
  • In Chameli Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh (1996) it was held that “The right to shelter when used as an essential requisite to the right to live should be deemed to have been guaranteed as a fundamental right”.

An illegality

  • First, the state collected taxes for the so-called illegal construction. Was the illegality of construction condoned? If not, was not the state complicit in perpetuating the illegality and also earning out of it? Has any action been taken by the state against its complicit officials?
  • Second, the well settled principle requiring state action to be just, fair and reasonable mandates, in the absence of any terrible
  • urgency, another opportunity to the accused to appear for the hearing. Why was this routine ‘another opportunity’ denied?
  • Third, Demolition on a Sunday which is a government holiday. Even in NSA cases, the Supreme Court excludes Sundays for dealing with a representation against preventive detention.
  • Fourth, the demolition order was pasted on the walls of the houses on Saturday night and the demolition took place on Sunday morning, giving no time to challenge the correctness of the demolition order in a court of law or file an appeal. Is this just, fair and reasonable?
  • Fifth, In Teenu vs Govt. of NCT of Delhi (2022). UP Police were found to falsify documents, create false trials and other fraudulent practices which also malign their record.

Need for accountability

  • First, the state should adequately compensate the ones whose houses have been demolished to enable them to rebuild their houses.
  • Second, it should give them an equal amount of compensation for the mental distress caused to them and their families.
  • Third, the officers concerned at all levels must be held accountable and punished enough to ‘teach them a lesson’. Accountability jurisprudence must take root in India and the culture of impunity banished.
  • Fourth, disband the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission, a body that apparently sees no evil, hears no evil, and does no good.
  • Fifth, the Rule of Law should be upheld.

Way Forward

Shakespeare, speaking through Angelo in Measure for Measure, asks a pertinent question that resonates even today: “The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?” In the law on sedition, the Supreme Court of India made it clear that the one inciting violence is the guilty person. Ergo, the tempter sins most. Hence, the law must take its course against tempters and must tame tempted from crossing the line.

Source – The Hindu

December 2023