High Court (India)

March 18, 2019

Slum dwellers’ Forced, Unannounced Eviction Contrary To Law: Delhi HC


Justices-S-Muralidhar-&-Vibhu-Bakhru

On Monday, the Delhi High Court said that forced and unannounced eviction of jhuggi dwellers was contrary to the law and the authorities should ensure that the displaced people were immediately rehabilitated. Before carrying out an eviction drive, the authorities would have to carry out a detailed survey, draw up a rehabilitation plan in consultation with JJ basti and jhuggi dwellers and ensure their immediate rehabilitation after eviction.

A bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru said, "Forced eviction of jhuggi dwellers, unannounced, in co-ordination with the other agencies, and without compliance with the above steps, would be contrary to the law... The right to housing is a bundle of rights not limited to a bare shelter over one's head. It includes the right to livelihood, right to health, right to education and right to food, including right to clean drinking water, sewerage and transport facilities."

In 2015, senior Congress leader Ajay Maken had sought that the railway ministry and Delhi police be restrained from carrying out further demolition drive in Shakur Basti here which allegedly left nearly 5,000 people homeless in chilly winter conditions and caused the death of a six-month-old girl that year.

Two JJ Basti dwellers were also impleaded as petitioners in the petition later. The demolition had taken place in violation of the law explained in various judgments of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, the petitioners contended. They said that the displaced persons were "completely helpless and exposed to the extreme cold weather".

The Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, said that the JJ clusters which had come up before January 1, 2006, will not be removed without providing them alternative housing. The jhuggis which had come up in such JJ clusters before February 14, 2015, will not be demolished without providing alternate housing, the policy stated.

In the instant case, the bench, in its 104-page judgment, said that the key elements of the 2015 Policy, which were in conformity with the decisions of the Supreme Court and the high court, would apply across the board to all bastis and jhuggis across the NCT of Delhi.

The bench said, "They (SC and HC decisions) acknowledge that the right to adequate housing is a right to access several facets that preserve the capability of a person to enjoy the freedom to live in the city. They recognise such persons as right bearers whose full panoply of constitutional guarantees require recognition, protection and enforcement. That is the running theme of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) Act and the 2015 Policy.”

"The decisions of the Supreme Court on the right to shelter and the decision of this court... require a court approached by persons complaining against forced eviction not to view them as 'encroachers' and illegal occupants of land, whether public or private, but to require the agencies to first determine if the dwellers are eligible for rehabilitation in terms of the extant law and policy." the bench further said.

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