New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and former minister Ajay Maken has moved the Supreme Court, asking it to make government bodies ensure that slum dwellers are rehabilitated before the removal of 48,000 illegal dwellings (jhuggis) alongside railway tracks in Delhi.
Justice Arun Mishra had, on August 31, directed the removal of 48,000 slum dwellings along the 140 km length of railway tracks in Delhi within three months and had said there shall not be any kind of political interference in execution of the plan.
Maken’s plea sought direction to the Ministry of Railways, Delhi government and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to rehabilitate the slum dwellers prior to eviction/demolition of their dwellings. It also sought direction to the Ministry of Railways, Delhi government and DUSIB to follow the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015 and the Protocol (for removal of jhuggis) in letter and spirit.
The petition filed through advocates Aman Panwar and Nitin Saluja said that subsequent to the August 31 order of the Supreme Court the Ministry of Railways has issued Demolition Notices and has fixed the demolition drive for September 11 and 14 in various slums in Delhi.
However, various policies of the government of India and that of the Government of NCT of Delhi providing for prior rehabilitation of slums dwellers, survey of the affected population are neither being followed by the Respondent Railways nor have been brought to the notice of this court.
Referring to the COVID-19 situation in the country, the plea said that in these circumstances, it would be highly risky to demolish the hutments/ jhuggis of more than 2,50,000 people without prior rehabilitation as they will be forced to move from place to place in search of shelter and livelihood.
As the slum dwellers were not parties in the case, either directly or in representative capacity, their stance and the relevant documents could not be brought before this court for its kind consideration.
The net effect of the directions passed in the order dated August 3, is not only that the slum dwellers have been denied opportunity of hearing but also the order itself is inhuman and against public policy as lakhs of children, women and elderly currently residing in the large slum clusters alongside the railway tracks will be left without a roof on the streets.
It has been further said in the Application that the Ministry of Railways and the Delhi Government has circumvented the detailed Judgment dated 18.03.2019 of Delhi High Court in Ajay Maken Vs. UOI (WP.C. (PIL) 11616/2015) by keeping the Apex Court in dark about the fine protocol approved by the High Court for removal of slums. Not a single slum dweller either directly or in representative capacity has been heard by the Apex Court before passing such a devastating Order, said Maken.
Maken and co-petitioner Kailash Pandit said that they are filing the intervention application seeking additional directions for rehabilitation of the affected population prior to their displacement.
The plea said that the apex court has not only directed removal of about 48,000 jhuggis alongside the railways line, but it has also directed that no court will grant stay in the said process which amounts to grave obstruction in the Right to Access to Justice.
On August 31, the Supreme Court directed that the slum dwellings will be removed in a phased manner. It had said, in case any interim order is granted with respect to encroachments, which have been made along with railway tracks that shall not be effective.
The apex court had said that 70 per cent of the requisite amount shall be borne by the Railways and 30 per cent by the state government and the manpower be provided by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), Railways and agencies available with the Government, free of cost, and they will not charge it from each other.
On February 28, the top court had taken note of “heaps of plastic bags and garbage” lying on both sides of railway lines in outer Delhi region and asked the Delhi government, civic bodies and EPCA to make a concrete plan for its removal.
Terming the situation as “pathetic”, the apex court had taken cognisance of this issue and said steps have to be taken on a “war-footing basis” so that no such garbage is dumped on the sides of railway lines in future. It had directed that a joint meeting be held by all stakeholders and a comprehensive action plan and time-frame be placed before the court.
This issue had put before the Apex Court which is hearing matters related to pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).
-India Legal Bureau