The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday ordered an interim stay on the demolition drive which left hundreds of migrant workers homeless in Bengaluru’s Bellandur.
The High Court bench presided by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar also directed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Bengaluru police to submit a detailed report explaining the grounds and the rules under which the demolition drive was carried out over the weekend.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenging the BBMP’s eviction-demolition drive over the weekend in migrant settlements located at Kariyammana Agrahara, Kundalahalli and Devarabeesanahalli in Bellandur.
In particular, the High Court questioned the seemingly 'invisible source' of the order to carry out the demolition after the BBMP and the police refused to take responsibility for the incident in court. The counsel appearing for the BBMP initially said that the demolitions were not carried out by the civic body but later stated that a detailed report will be submitted next week. The court also directed the Bengaluru Police Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the demolition.
The BBMP Commissioner BH Anil Kumar has earlier stated that the demolition drive was unauthorised and was carried out by an Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) without permission from higher officials in the civic body.
The AEE of the BBMP’s Marathahalli subdivision, Narayan Swamy, had written to Marathahalli police station seeking police protection to carry out the demolition. In the letter, the official said that "Bangladeshi nationals have built illegal sheds and the residents here have converted this into a slum area".
The High Court also asked for the source of the claim that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were staying in Bellandur. PUCL in its PIL contested this presumption. "After studying the documents of the people residing in the settlement, it was found that many of the residents were from north Karnataka, and many others were also from Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, and Bihar," Vinay Sreenivasa, an advocate with Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in Bengaluru told TNM. The case will be heard again on January 29.