The Gauhati High Court has stressed that “bulldozing of a house is not provided under any criminal law”, even if an agency is investigating a “very serious matter”.
Chief Justice RM Chhaya made the observation on Thursday, while hearing a suo motu case taken up by the high court regarding demolition of the house of an accused in Batadrava Police Station arson case in Nagaon district of Assam.
The Batadrava Police Station was set on fire on May 21 by an irate mob following the alleged custodial death of a local fish trader, Safikul Islam (39), who was picked up by police the night before.
A day later, the district authorities had bulldozed at least six houses, including Islam’s, purportedly in search of weapons and drugs hidden beneath the structures.
“Even if a very serious matter is being investigated by an agency, bulldozing of a house is not provided under any criminal law,” Justice Chhaya observed.
Emphasising that it requires permission to even search a house, he said, “Tomorrow if you need something, you will dig up my court room.
“How can you do it? You can be anybody. Nobody is safe under guise of investigation if you pull down anybody’s house,” the chief justice added.
He pointed out that a search warrant is required, adding, “We are in a democratic set-up”.
“In a lighter vein, even Lord Macaulay could not have thought of it and he is a giant on criminal law,” he said.
Pointing out that one 0.9 mm pistol was recovered by demolishing the house, as submitted in the government affidavit, Chief Justice Chayya also raised apprehension that it could have been planted also.
He maintained that incidents of such bulldozing of houses are done in movies, and even in those, the search warrant is shown before the act.
The chief justice equated the bulldozing of the houses to an act in a gang war’ and asked the Home department to find better ways of carrying out their investigation.
The court later listed the matter for December 12.
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