Across Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, this year has seen the state bulldoze the homes of those accused of a variety of crimes ranging from selling Chinese manjha to rape and rioting. Despite the veneer of conducting anti-encroachment drives, the flouting of due process, such as giving sufficient notice to the accused to appeal against the demolition, has been manifest. Among the various injustices involved here, a glaring one is that collective punishment is prohibited in modern legal systems. Apart from the accused being entitled to being held innocent until proven guilty in court, his family is certainly not punishable alongside him.
On Sunday when the Prayagraj municipal authorities bulldozed the two-storey house of Javed Mohammad, the coincidence of him having been arrested in connection with the Friday protests against Nupur Sharma turning violent was glaring. The argument about all the above bulldozing cases is not that the victims are innocent, as that can only be decided in courts, which must intervene here too. It is that pursuing the appropriate criminal provisions should be first and last rather than superseded by some lawless bulldozer raj – which represents a dangerous weakening of every institution complicit in it.
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