"By looking at the face of a person, can one be identified as being a Bangladeshi national?” questioned Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, slamming the state over the demolition of settlements in Bengaluru over suspicions that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants stayed there.
The High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar told that state that it will have to rehabilitate those affected by the demolitions.
The court was hearing the plea filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties which challenged the demolition of migrant settlements in Bellandur and Whitefield in the city on January 18 and 19.
In a previous hearing, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) distanced itself from the demolitions. On Monday, the state, which was represented by Advocate-General Prabhuling K Navadgi also maintained that it did not have anything to do with the demolition.
Further, he questioned the misuse of power at multiple levels during the process through which the demolition was carried out — the police officer who wrote to the landowners, as well as the BBMP carrying out the demolition. “On the suspicion that they are Bangladeshi, will the police take law into its own hands and write to the owner, and the BBMP act?” he asked.It had turned out that many residents in the migrant settlement were from states like Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and even Karnataka.
CJ Oka also questioned why the police officer is still in service. “The fact that the state has protected the officer shows that all is not well,” he quipped.
He stated that since the problem began with the state, it must take measures to rehabilitate them — either monetarily or otherwise.
He also tore into the authorities, questioning them as to on what basis the people were declared to be Bangladeshi. He stated that nothing seemed to indicate that the police officer visited the site to identify Bangladeshi immigrants.
“Door-to-door survey by a competent authority must be done. Proper verification needs to be carried out,” he said.
“No date was set by the BBMP for demolition. The stand of the state government is that they have not done it. Prima facie, it is impossible to accept that the occupants vacated on their own,” the CJ said.
Lawyers representing the owners of the land where the shanties were razed maintained that those who were squatting on the property left after they “politely requested” them. “Who will believe that people left because they were politely requested to?” the CJ quipped.
The court will pass its final order in the case on February 7.