The High Court of Bombay stayed the demolition on Western Railway lands in Greater Mumbai till March 1, observing that encroachment was a serious issue, which needed to be dealt with in a more considered fashion than by merely deploying a bulldozer.
The Division Bench of Justice G.S. Patel and Justice Neela Gokhale issued notice to the Western Railways, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) on a petition filed by the Ekta Welfare Society, which had received eviction and demolition notices for encroaching on the railway property.
The High Court directed the authorities concerned to place on record the rehabilitation process being followed for the affected, besides the eligibility criteria being applied to identify the encroachers.
It said considering the fact that the scale of displacement was sometimes beyond imagination, merely labeling these persons as ‘encroachers’ was not going to resolve this serious problem, which concerned human displacement.
The High Court further expressed its displeasure over the Western Railway not following the order of the Apex Court with respect to identifying occupants and considering their eligibility.
It said the Apex Court was informed that the affected eligible persons would be accommodated or rehabilitated under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana Scheme (PMAYS). However, it looked like no process was followed to ascertain the eligibility of encroachers, noted the High Court.
It said that leave alone the spirit, the authorities did not even follow in letter the Supreme Court orders referred to in this case.
The Division Bench also took in view the fact that the report did not indicate whether any survey was done of the 101 unauthorised structures and if any process of eligibility was undertaken.
The Authorities had submitted a report before the High Court, stating that 101 structures were demolished and the debris generated after demolition and unserviceable released material were broken and thrown outside the railway land at a low-lying area, but no personal belongings were taken from the site.
The High Court flayed the authorities for their action and said that the disposal of this material raised more questions than it answered. By throwing the material into a low-lying area, apparently the presumption was that it would get washed into the Arabian Sea. The Division Bench said it did not approve of this approach.