The Karnataka High Court has held that it is the duty of the state to protect people’s right to shelter and directed the state government to reconstruct huts of migrant workers that were burnt down by unidentified miscreants during the lockdown.
The order was passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty while hearing a suo moto petition which was filed after taking cognisance of a letter petition filed by Advocate Vaishali Hegde. The court has directed the State government to file a compliance report by February 6, 2021 and stated that the state government may take assistance from NGOs for reconstruction of the huts. The case will next be heard on February 11, 2021.
The court has directed the state government to construct the structures at its own cost for the affected families who had left for Kalaburgi due to the lockdown announced in March.
The bench observed, “The State government remained passive for a long time and made no effort in order to take action against miscreants who destroyed the structures/huts. Houses were erected on lands vested with the state government, therefore in our view prima facie, the state failed to uphold Fundamental Rights, governed under Article 21 of Constitution,” reported LiveLaw.
The court pointed out that there were quite a few such incidents where such hutments or shanties were burnt down after the lockdown was announced and until the court intervened the state did not make any attempt to compensate the affected persons.
The court also placed reliance upon a Supreme Court judgment Chameli Singh vs State Of U.P and held that “Right to shelter guaranteed by Article 21 of Constitution of India of these families who were staying in the huts was clearly violated… “State was duty bound to protect the Right to shelter available to affected families guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
Although the court clarified that the structures constituted encroachment on government property and the concerned authorities are free to take action of removal of the reconstructed structures as the court is not creating any equity for the affected families.
“As far as possible reconstructed structures to be built at the same place where they were destroyed. After completion of reconstruction houses shall be allotted to affected families by the state government. The bench also has directed the state to complete the process of distribution of compensation of Rs 14,100, in relation to identified families, within 3 weeks from today,” ordered the court, as reported by LiveLaw.
In June, the bench had directed the state government to pay compensation and to rehabilitate the migrant workers who lost their huts to the incident.
The complete order may be read here