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Slum eviction: Supreme Court grants 3 weeks to Gujarat to submit status report

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The Supreme Court has granted three weeks time to the Gujarat government to submit a status report on the proposed rehabilitation of 10,000 slum-dwellers evicted from railway land in the state for the linking of the Surat-Udhna rail line upto Jalgaon. In a similar case from Faridabad in Haryana, the Court directed the authorities concerned to process the applications of slum-dwellers expeditiously and dispose them not later than 4 weeks from the date of its receipt.

In the Gujarat matter on Monday, the bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice C.T. Ravikumar said it has been pointed out that the Collector, Surat has not notified the list of eligible persons entitled for rehabilitation. A further two weeks’ time has been requested to notify the names of eligible persons entitled for rehabilitation.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, counsel for petitioners’, Utran se Besthan Railway Jhopadpatti Vikas Mandal, submitted that the applications for rehabilitation have been made. The government has not yet put up the list of eligible persons. Gonsalves requested that the municipal corporation must state reasons for rejection of applications. 

Advocate-on-Record Deepanwita Priyanka, appearing for the State of Gujarat, informed the court that the last date for submitting applications was March 31. She said the State needs at least 15 days’ time to process it. 

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The Apex Court was hearing the matter arising out of the Gujarat High Court’s final judgment and order dated 19-08-2021 in WP(PIL) No.222/2014 which had directed the eviction of over 10,000 slum dwellers.

The authorities concerned were poised to start demolition of slums, when the counsel for the petitioners had apprised the Supreme Court bench on 24-08-2021, when this matter was first heard. 

Additionally, it was ordered that the Railways and the local government would be jointly and severally liable to pay a sum of Rs 2,000 per month per demolished structure for a period of six months from the date of demolition of their structure as ex-gratia to the head of the family/occupants of the concerned unauthorized structure removed during demolition. All necessary efforts would be made to rehabilitate the dwellers, under any relevant scheme. If necessary, the concerned authorities were directed to take civil or criminal actions against the unauthorised dwellers as required.

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In the Faridabad case, which was also on slum-dwellers encroaching on Railway land in Sanjay Nagar, the bench said, “The learned ASG has invited our attention to the order of the High Court dated 8th April 2022. The occupants were given notice regarding the actions initiated under the Provisions of Public Premises Act, 1971 and nothing more was required to be done except taking over physical possession of the concerned property other than Sanjay Nagar property situated in Faridabad. The railway authorities are aggrieved by the orders passed by the High Court, are free to file Special Leave Petition which will be considered on the Next date on 22nd April.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves for the petitioners said, “352 persons are evicted after demolition of houses in Sanjay Nagar area. The first step was to pay solatium as directed by this court’s order dated 16.12.2021 has not been paid.” The Apex Court had ordered the local government and the Haryana government to pay a sum of Rs 2,000 per month per demolished structure for a period of seven months as ex-gratia to the head of the family.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi, appearing on behalf of respondent, submitted that they have received 338 applications from people occupying Sanjay Nagar area and they are being processed. He sought four weeks’ time as the scrutiny process will take time. 

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The Bench noted,

“Despite order dated 16.12.2021, the local and state government have not disbursed the solatium of 2000 per month. Senior Advocate Arun Bhardwaj, appearing for the local government, submits that around 338 applications have been received and are being verified and some more time will be required. We direct the concerned authorities to process the applications  expeditiously and every application must be disposed of not later than four weeks from receipt. That period of pending applications will commence from today. After verification the eligible  applicant be granted solatium amount, punctually.”

The next hearing for the Gujarat and Haryana cases has been listed for April 22.

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