Friday, December 9, 2022

Supreme Court refuses to stay demolition of 10,000 encroachments in the Aravallis in Faridabad

The top court has also refused to take any new plea in regard to this matter as the court has ordered the eviction of encroaches from forest land long back.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday has refused to stay on its own order in which the court has directed demolition of houses of 10K families comprising of over 1lakh people who built houses unauthorizedly in forest land in Khori village of Faridabad. 

The Supreme Court has also refused to take any new plea in regard to this matter as the court has ordered the eviction of encroaches from forest land long back. However, the top court said those who are entitled to rehabilitation as per the Haryana Government’s 2003 scheme would be entitled to the benefit. 

The Apex Court has asked the Faridabad Municipal Corporation to implement court’s June 7 order which was a separate plea titled Sarina and ors v Municipal Corporation, Faridabad and ors, in which the Apex Court had directed the State of Haryana and Municipal Cooperation of Faridabad to vacate the Forest Land encroached by then petitioners within 6 weeks and submit their compliance report in a matter where then petitioners have filed the petition in public interest challenging the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy to the extent it limits the cut off for rehabilitation to 2003, and to seek stay on demolition of about 10,000 houses at Khori Gaon, Faridabad Haryana which is going to be demolished by Municipal Corporation.

The present Public Interest Litigation was filed seeking stay on demolition of more than 10,000 houses comprising of over 1 lakhs people at Khori Gaon, Faridabad, Haryana while following rehabilitation procedure and to provide temporary shelter to the evicted slum dwellers in view of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed by the Haryana Government to contain the spread of disease. 

Supreme Court orders removal of encroachment at KhoriGaaon

It was all started in the 1980s when daily wage workers across the country came to Aravali Hills for the purpose of mining and settled there. Slowly and gradually, this slum settlement came to the house over 10,000 slum dwellers comprising of over 1 lakh people. Many of the residents have proof of address. Even though they had no intention to grab the forest land for their living, the workers were forced to settle out of abject poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. 

In 2010 and 2014, a Writ Petitions titled Khori Gaon Residents Welfare Association vs State of Haryana & Ors and Khori Gaon Kalyan Samiti vs the State of Haryana & Ors was filed in Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking stay on demolition and rehabilitation of slum dwellers at Khori Gaon, Faridabad Haryana. On 25.04.2016 and 29.04.2016, a judgment was passed by the High Court directing rehabilitation of the residents, which was challenged by Municipal Corporation Faridabad in the Supreme Court, on 19.02.2020, the Supreme Court stated that the corporation is free to remove encroachment on the forest land in accordance with the law. 

In September 2020, about 1700 houses were demolished bythe corporation without following any procedure forrehabilitation of the residents.

In January 2021, some of the concerned residents filed a Writ Petition titled Govada Prasad & Ors vs State of Haryana & Ors before Punjab and Haryana High Court, challenging the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy and sought amendment of the cut off from 2003 to 2020. The petition further sought stay on demolition till the cut-off date is decided. Notice was issued and the matter is still pending.

In April’2021, corporation again demolished about 300houses at Khori Gaon.

Fundamental right to rehabilitation of slum dwellers atKhori Gaon

It is submitted that the right of housing which has being recognized by the Apex Court as a part and parcel of thefundamental right to life in a series of judgements like OlgaTellis (1985), Shantisar Builders (1990) and so on are violated in the present case by taking away the homes of thousands of people. 

No rehabilitation is being done by the Corporation at Khori Gaon, Faridabad

It was further submitted by the petitioners that no rehabilitation is being done by the Corporation at Khori Gaon, Faridabad. Not a single person has been rehabilitated at Khori Gaon as per the 2010 policy. Authorities have made no effort to identify the slum dwellers residing prior to 2003 as per the policy. As per the 2010 policy, the residents are required to prove their land title, when authorities should only require them to prove their eligibility for rehabilitation. Though, the residents of Khori Gaon are not required to prove their land title for rehabilitation under the policy as they have never claimed titled over the forest land but are only seeking rehabilitation. The residents are only required to prove their residence prior to 2003 which can be established through documents like, ration card, voter Id Cards, birth certificate, etc. These documents were never asked by the corporation.

Important to note that all rehabilitation policies passed by different states prescribe a procedure to be followed for eviction/demolition. Most important part of a rehabilitation process is identifying eligible slum dwellers by conducting a survey of area, collecting document and verifying the physical presence of a slum dweller. In the present case, none of these have been done. 

In Maharashtra, rehabilitation is done through Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971, where the cut-off date is of 2011. Guidelines for the Implementation of Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, requires the authorities to conduct a survey, map the area with photographs, determine eligibility and give a due hearing to ineligible slum dwellers. Whereas, in Delhi rehabilitation is done through the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2017, where a cut-off date is of 2015 and a detailed protocol had been issued for removal of jhuggis anf JJ bastis in Delhi. Therefore, a democratic process is followed to ensure the right to housing of slum dwellers. Unfortunately, State of Haryana has no guidelines for removal of encroachments which can stand the test under constitution.

The petitioners highlighted that the corporation is required to follow the rehabilitation policy before conducting any demolition. 

Petitioners are seeking temporary shelter to the slum dwellers at Khori Gaon

There are about 10,000 houses comprising of over 1lakhs people who will be forced to reside on the streets after eviction. The petitioners submitted that if the eviction is imminent, then the residents are required to be shifted to a temporary shelter in order to claim their right to rehabilitation. Once a slum dweller is evicted, she loses her chance of getting rehabilitation unless she is shifted to a temporary shelter.

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Eviction during Covid-19 pandemic threaten the survivalof slum dwellers at Khori Gaon

The petitioners reminded that in early 2020, the world health organization announced a covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the country is fighting a most brutal wave of covid-19 pandemic. The residents of Khori Gaon are mostly daily wage labourers,domestic workers, rickshaw pullers, construction workers andrag pickers who anyways live below the poverty line, but nowhave also lost their livelihood and exhausted their savingsduring the lockdown. There are around 30,000 children, around 5,000 pregnant and lactating women, hundreds of single women, elderly and other vulnerable groups who will be pushed to the streets without any basic facility like shelter, food, water, toilet, etc. Since, most of the slum dwellers have little to no savings, and have also lost their livelihood, they can’t afford to rent a house, and therefore, they have nowhere else to go.

The UN has issued statements requesting the member nations to suspend all the demolitions until the pandemic face is over to reduce the spread of COVID19.

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