While dealing with a plea filed by Shakarpur Slum Union (the Union) last year, against the alleged overnight demolitions in the Shakarpur district of Delhi, the Delhi High Court on August 2, 2022 observed that persons cannot be evicted with a bulldozer at their doorstep “early in the morning or late in the evening” without any notice, rendering them completely shelterless, reported LiveLaw.
The plea stated that the 3-day demolition drive conducted without any prior notice by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials in the area, demolished around 300 of the huts and shanties (colloquially known as Jhuggi Jhopri or JJ Bastis). In the plea, they stated that the Union comprises residents of Jhuggi Jhopri Bastis and slums of the Shakarpur district of Delhi.
The plea sought directions to suspend further demolition and maintain status quo at the demolished site until all residents are surveyed and rehabilitated as per the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) Policy. It also sought directions to conduct a survey of the affected residents and rehabilitate them in accordance with the Delhi JJ slum Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy , 2015.
Justice Subramonium Prasad disposed of the writ petition with a direction to the DDA to carry out further demolition only in consultation with the DUSIB. The Court further directed the DDA to give sufficient time to the residents to make alternate arrangements, or, steps should be taken to accommodate the dwellers in the shelters provided by the DUSIB for three months so that the persons, whose jhuggis are being demolished, are able to find some alternate accommodation.
It was the case of the Union that many of the members of the Union are residing in Ramesh Park and Lalita Park, and they had been dislocated from their earlier places because of a demolition drive which was conducted for the expansion of the Delhi Metro. It is the case of the Union that a survey must be conducted at these places to ascertain as to whether these Clusters were in existence prior to January 1, 2006, or not. The Court observed that the survey conducted by the DDA and the maps filed before this Court show that Ramesh Park and Lalita Park are on one side of the Pushta Road and the places where demolition took place is across the Pushta Road, away from the Clusters identified by the DUSIB.
The Court held, “This Court is unable to accept the stand of the Petitioner-Union that they were in existence prior to 01.01.2006. The prayer of the Petitioner-Union to conduct a second survey also cannot be accepted for the reason that DUSIB already conducted a survey in the year 2012-13 and the areas on one side of the Pushta Road have been identified by the DUSIB which does not extend to the area on the other side of the Pushta Road where demolition has been carried out by the DDA.” It further added, “The claim of the Petitioner-Union that they were initially residing in the Clusters as notified by the DUSIB and they were moved out because of construction of the Delhi Metro and, therefore, they are entitled to the rehabilitation under the DUSIB policy are pure questions of facts which have to be proved by the Petitioner-Union by leading evidence in their individual capacity. It is well settled that while adjudicating a writ, a writ court cannot go into excruciating details of facts. A perusal of the DUSIB Policy shows that only those clusters which existed prior to 01.01.2006 are entitled to the benefit of the DUSIB Policy. The Petitioner-Union has been exceedingly vague in describing as to when the Clusters in question came into existence.”
Citing the Supreme Court cases – Sudama Singh (Sudama Singh v. Government of Delhi, 2010 SCC OnLine Del 612) and Ajay Maken (Ajay Maken & Ors v. Union of India & Ors., 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7618), relied upon by the Petitioner in its arguments, the Court was of the opinion that the purpose of the judgments passed by the Court in the above mentioned cases was not to provide rehabilitation of the dwellers in the JJ Cluster even if they have encroached on government land. In the said cases, the Court never gave any license to any person to encroach upon Government property. The Court observed, “Encroachment on government land cannot be said to be a fundamental right of any person and a person encroaching upon government land cannot claim that he is entitled to rehabilitation as a matter of right even in the absence of any policy bestowing the benefit of rehabilitation and relocation on the said person.”
However, the Court noted that the right to shelter has been declared as a human right to be protected by Courts, especially for those who will have no place to go with their family and belongings if they are faced with mid-night demolitions. Accordingly, the court relied on its Sudama Singh judgment, wherein it directed that the State Government must formulate a comprehensive protocol to ensure that persons who have encroached upon Government lands are not rendered shelter-less and therefore, recommended a rehabilitation policy to rehabilitate such persons. It also noted that the judgement in the case of Ajay Maken cannot be interpreted to mean clusters not identified by the DUSIB would be entitled to rehabilitation.
At the same time, the Court did not hesitate to accept that it is a common sight to watch a Jhuggi dweller with the bulldozer at the doorstep, desperately trying to save whatever precious little belongings and documents they have. The Court observed, “The action of DDA in removing a person, whom they claim to be an encroacher, overnight from his residence cannot be accepted.”
Accordingly, the Court held that a reasonable period has to be given to such persons and temporary location has to be provided to them before embarking on any demolition activities. The Court observed, “The DDA has to act in consultation with the DUSIB before embarking upon any such venture and persons cannot be evicted with a bulldozer at their door step early in the morning or late in the evening, without any notice, rendering them completely shelter-less. A reasonable period has to be given to such persons and temporary location has to be provided to them before embarking on any demolition activities.”
With respect to the prayer of the Petitioner seeking a survey of the Petitioner-Union so as to discern as to whether they can be deemed to be a part of a notified JJ Cluster, the Court refused to delve into it. It stated, “Needless to state that it is always open for the Petitioner- Union to take appropriate steps in accordance with law, lead evidence and establish that they are entitled to the benefits of DUSIB policy by way of being residents of Clusters at S. No. 553 & 569 which are described as Sayeed Peerwala Ki Mazar, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Shakar Pur Chungi Thokar 16, Lalita Park, Laxmi Nagar & Shamshan Ghat Thokar No.16.”
A copy of the order may be read here: