Monday, December 4, 2023

Khori Gaon: Supreme Court directs Faridabad municipal corporation to come up with timeline for rehabilitating residents

The two-judge Bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari also took note of the submission made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Haryana, that the process of identification of forest land and non-forest land is ongoing.

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The Supreme Court has today directed the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to identify a suitable timeline for rehabilitation of people from Khori Gaon. The Court has suggested the method that the provisional allotment be given in a week from the submission of application and if the eligibility is found suspect thereafter, the person may be evicted.

Learned AAG Arun Bharadwaj, for the state of Haryana appearing for the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad, submitted that he will seek instructions. The matter has been deferred to next Monday.

The two-judge Bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari also took note of the submission made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Haryana, that the process of identification of forest land and non-forest land is ongoing. The Court observed that it should be done shortly as the land has already been notified.

Bharadwaj also objected to the reports filed in two connected matters that the Court held that it would not go into this factual dispute and therefore granted time for the Corporation to suggest a timeline for rehabilitation. He had submitted that he has filed a common reply to all the IAs. He submitted that it is a temporary shelter, an email has been created, the nodal officer had been appointed and the housing plan had also been notified.

Haryana government making false statements: Petitioners

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner in Sarina Sarkar & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Ors, submitted that everything about rehabilitation submitted by the government was false and requested the Supreme Court to appoint a commissioner.

The Court asked him about the urgent concerns. Gonsalves submitted that food, water, accommodation are found wanting. He took the court through the report filed in Sarina Sarkar about the inadequacies in the facilities. The Court remarked that it was a wider issue and that for immediate relief, the Counsel should point out urgent things.

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Gonsalves tried to impress upon the Court that it was all a connected issue. He submitted that the temporary shelter was a makeshift hall that could barely fit 150 people. He submitted that there is no privacy and that the young women do not feel comfortable, further that there was no space in tents. In addition, the persons were forced to leave after 2-3 days. He also made a submission that half the space is occupied by the volunteers of the Radhaswamy Satsang Ashram.

Gonsalves submitted that the authorities look at the people with suspicion and demand electricity bill for identification. The evicted persons have Aadhaar card and yet could not get facilities.

He also submitted that drinking water and electricity are not available. Gonsalves referred to the photos in the report. The Court asked him when were these photos taken and if the position was the same. He replied that they were from August 6 and nothing has changed as his people had visited the site 2-3 days ago also.

Gonsalves tried to impress upon the court that there was no drinking water and that they were dependent upon rainwater. Further that they were given one meal a day and asked to leave thereafter. He also submitted that there was constant police presence and the police was scaring away those seeking shelter.

‘You understand what I am saying?’

Gonsalves referred to persons living atop debris. The Court pointed out that the debris is of demolished buildings and that the persons are not moving. In the backdrop of the Court saying that the issues were getting mixed up, the Court said to Gonsalves that he should understand what the court was saying. In a heated moment, the Senior Advocate replied, “You understand what I am saying.”  Justice Khanwilkar promptly replied, “You want to proceed like that?”

Gonsalves thereafter said that he did not, but the Court should consider what the persons are supposed to do in the absence of shelter.

Justice Dinesh Maheshwari tried to moderate the tension by stating that there was no point in debating the same thing again. He said that the word ‘temporary’ in itself means something that is not permanent, and that it would be for immediate requirement. He clarified that for rehabilitation, the Corporation had asked for administrative sanction. He said that the administration should be allowed to do its work.

The Court also said, “You interview a few persons, this report leads us where? Let us look at temporary things from a temporary perspective.”

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Gonsalves finished his submissions by stating that they needed food, water, shelter, electricity and toilets on a temporary basis, and that they have Aadhaar cards for identity.  

Sanjay Parekh, appearing for the petitioners in Rekha & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., supported the submissions of Gonsalves on the inadequacies and submitted that he prays for an independent monitoring mechanism. He submitted that till they get shelter, they should be allowed to stay and that there were at least 1 lakh people who had been displaced. It was his submission that where would people go after 2-3 days.

‘We do not accept the report’

Bharadwaj thereafter submitted that he does not accept the report. The Municipal Corporation of Faridabad counsel submitted that they had been providing facilities since August 23 and that the completion certificate was of that date. He further submitted that the Indian Red Cross Society was adjacent to the temporary shelter and was providing medical facilities.

It was his submission that only those who are eligible can avail the facilities, and that it was natural that they would ask for proof. He submitted that Gonsalves was unfair in painting the Corporation black.

He also submitted that the food is freshly cooked and hygienic, and that Rs 2000 per month was being provided to the families. The Court asked him how early can the allotment for rehabilitation in EWS flats could be done? Bharadwaj submitted that the allotment depends on eligibility and that the process may take 8-10 weeks. He further said that there may be need for some retrofitting in shelters.

Justice Khanwilkar said that the preliminary scrutiny can be done in a week and the provisional allotment done based on that subject to verification. The person can be evicted after that.

‘Do you have locus?’

Mathew J. Nedumpara, appearing for intervenors in 301.5, tried to persuade the court in terms of the ‘rights of those evicted’. He tried to submit before the court arguments based on the law of prescription and limitation.

The Court first asked him what was his locus to address the Court. Nedumpara was unable to point out the description of the intervenors, and replied, “The whole issue is if I have a right, law will provide for remedy.” Despite being asked on locus standi, the Counsel proceeded to make submission that due process was not followed.

The Bench was visibly angry. Nedumpara said that a PIL was filed that should have been withdrawn. He submitted that the order of demolition was passed in the PIL and therefore he has been evicted. The Bench said, “We will record your submission and reject your contention.” Nedumpara said that he was only speaking for the poor and that he had joined the legal profession to help the society.

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He submitted that the entire proceedings were the result of the PIL, and that his grievance was that the municipality had thrown him out despite him having rights. He made a comparison with the district of Idduki in Kerala to state that the entire district is in forest. He submitted that the orders passed in the PIL of Sarina Sarkar should be reexamined. He stated that “I believe Your Lordships got it wrong. Your Lordships need to take corrective action.”

Justice Maheshwari tried his best to conceal anger, and asked the Counsel two questions. The first was where had it been stated in his application that he was in occupation prior to 2003. “Can you answer it straight?” the Court asked with the remark that it prima facie was not stated and not pointed out.

Justice Maheshwari, with razor sharp attentiveness, pointed out that Nedumpara had made a statement that even if he was a trespasser he could not be thrown out without the due process of law. Justice Maheshwari said that if that would be the case then reliance would be placed on the principles of Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act, and said “Do we not know that Section 6 cant be filed against the government?”

The Court took exception to the submissions of Nedumpara and proceeded to dictate the order. It was recorded that Nedumpara “submits that the directions of this Court are flawed and nullity. We place this submission on record only to be rejected. Nedumpara is unmindful of previous orders….”


SLP(C) No. 007220 – 007221 / 2017

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