The Central government has submitted to the Supreme Court that the slums along the 140-km railway tracks in New Delhi will not be removed just as yet. The Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta informed the bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, that Railways will find a solution in consultation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, within 4 weeks and until then the shanties will not be removed.
On August 31, a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra (now retired) had ordered removal of 48,000 shanties along Railway tracks in Delhi. Congress leader Ajay Maken filed a petition in response to this order seeking that it be recalled. The bench, comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari had also directed that no court should grant any stay on the removal of slums.
This order was passed in a petition which was filed by MC Mehta in 1985 and the apex court has been passing directions in the case since then, time and again in issues pertaining to pollution in and around Delhi. The bench ordered, “a comprehensive plan for removal of jhuggies be made and executed in a phased manner. The encroachments which are there in the safety zones should be removed within a period of three months and no interference, political or otherwise, should be there and no Court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments in the area in question”.
Further removing any more difficulties in implementation of the order, the court stated, “In case any interim order is granted with respect to encroachments, which have been made along with railway tracks, that shall not be effective.”
Maken submitted to the court that the order was passed in a case where the slum dwellers were not even a party, and hence their grievances and submissions have not been considered at all.
Maken pointed towards Railways admission that 2.4 lakh people will be rendered homeless if the August 31 order is brought into effect and that doing so without giving them an opportunity of being heard would be “one of the gravest tragedy and non-observance of principles of natural justice”. He further contended that the court completely ignored the plight of the vulnerable population while also departing from “audi altrem partem” (a Latin maxim meaning- let the other side be heard as well) especially in a case where the slum dwellers have been living there since 30-40 years.