Slums in Delhi and Supreme Court
Slums in Delhi and Supreme Court
Litigation News

No Jhuggis to be removed till Delhi government takes a decision in consultation with Centre, Solicitor General informs Supreme Court

On August 31, a Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had ordered the removal of the jhuggis due to issues of environmental degradation, accumulation of plastic waste, etc.

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court has been told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the decision regarding the removal of 48,000 jhuggis near railway tracks in the capital would be taken only after consultation between the Delhi government and the Centre.

SG Mehta further assured the Court that no eviction of dwellers or demolition of jhuggis would take place till the time a meeting is held between the Delhi government and the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

The Court was hearing a plea by Congress leader Ajay Maken and a slum dweller who sought to intervene in the MC Mehta case, in which the Supreme Court recently ordered the removal of 48,000 jhuggis (shanties) along 140 kilometres of railway track around Delhi within three months.

The matter was heard today by a Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

AS Bopanna, CJI Bobde and V Ramasubramanian
AS Bopanna, CJI Bobde and V Ramasubramanian

The intervenors have approached the Court seeking that the residents of the 48,000 jhuggis - said to be around 2 lakh people - are relocated before being evicted.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi informed the Bench that though SG Mehta submitted that there would be no demolition, "demolitions did take place on Friday and today (Monday)."

However, SG Mehta stated that such demolitions were done pursuant to some other matter, and not the one being heard.

The case will now be heard after four weeks.

On August 31, a Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had ordered the removal of the jhuggis due to issues of environmental degradation, accumulation of plastic waste, etc.

The Bench had also ordered that there would be no stay on its order by any other court.

The application filed by Maken through Advocate-on-Record Nitin Saluja and Advocate Aman Panwar states that the slum dwellers were never heard in the case, and that the order passed was in violation of the Supreme Court's Olga Tellis verdict. It states,

"Jhuggi dwellers were not parties in the present Writ Petition before this Hon’ble Court, either directly or in representative capacity, their stance and the relevant documents could not be brought before this Hon’ble Court for its kind consideration. Olga Tellis & Ors. vs Bombay Municipal Corporation 1986 AIR (SC) 180, wherein this Hon’ble Court has held that there can be no justification for denying an opportunity of hearing to slum dwellers living on pavements/ public properties."

Intervention application filed by Ajay Makes

The IA states that the August 31 order was "inhuman and against public policy" as lakhs of children, women and elderly persons currently residing in the large slum clusters alongside the railway tracks will be left without a roof.

The applicants have further noted that the order preventing other courts from granting stay on the removal of the jhuggis amounted to grave obstruction to the right to access to justice. The plea reads,

"That a direction of the Apex Court restricting the Fundamental Right to Access to Justice is not only a grave violation of Article 14 and 21 as the Jhuggi dwellers cannot be treated as secondary citizens to deny them the remedies available under law."

The plea further states that the railway authorities did not apprise the Court of the protocol for removal of jhuggis formulated by the Delhi High Court.

The said protocol, which was approved by the High Court, provided for a detailed survey of jhuggi dwellers sought to be removed and rehabilitation/relocation as a condition precedent to removal of jhuggis.

Moreover, the Government of NCT of Delhi had also formulated the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, which categorically provides for the rehabilitation of JJ bastis before their demolition.

However, the agencies deliberately did not inform the Court about the said policy, even though it categorically provides that no JJ Basti will be demolished without providing alternate housing to the inhabitants, the plea reads.

It is thus prayed that the jhuggi dwellers be relocated and rehabilitated prior to their eviction. It is also urged that the 2015 policy and the protocol for removal of jhuggis be strictly followed.

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