“You (state) show us from any criminal jurisprudence that for investigating a crime, the police without any order, can uproot a person and apply a bulldozer?” chief justice Chhaya sought to know from the government counsel, who had submitted a report by the Nagaon district SP, who had carried out the action.
On May 21, the Batadrava Police Station in Nagoan district was set on fire by a mob following the alleged custodial death of a local fish trader, Safikul Islam, who was picked up by the police the night before. A day later, six houses were demolished, including Islam’s, by using bulldozers purportedly in search of weapons and drugs hidden beneath the structures.
Chief justice Chhaya observed, “He may be an SP but even your higher ups need to pass through the gamut of law. Only because they are head of the police department, they cannot break anyone’s house. Nobody is safe in this country if this kind of action is permitted.”
During the hearing, the Bench sought to know if any prior permission was sought for this action, to which the counsel informed that a permission was sought for search of the house. Expressing shock, the chief justice observed, “This (action) is unheard of, at least with my limited career. I have not come across a police officer using bulldozer by way of a search warrant.”
“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 courtroom.” The chief justice said nobody will be safe if pulling down anyone’s house is permitted in the name of an investigation. “We are in a democratic set-up,” he added. 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. “There is a purpose why ‘law and order’ words are used together. This is not the manner in which law and order is controlled,” he said in his observation.