THE Supreme Court, on Monday, halted the proposed demolition of around 200 jhuggis in Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar by asking the Union Government not to take any coercive action till May 2. A division bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order to this effect even as it advised the government to deal with people living in jhuggis humanely.
“As a model government, you can’t say you won’t have a policy (to rehabilitate) and simply throw them”, the bench told Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natarajan.
The bench also issued notice to the union government, the Delhi government, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board [DUSIB], and the Delhi Police Commissioner.
The bench was hearing a petition filed against the Delhi High Court’s decision on April 19 in Vaishali (Minor) through next friends & Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. (2022) refusing to pass any order on the rehabilitation after taking on record the oral contention of the DUSIB/Slum Board that the jhuggis in question are not notified under the DUSIB Act, 2010 and hence, not eligible for rehabilitation. The Union Ministry of Urban Development on April 4 issued eviction/demolition notices to all residents of the jhuggis to vacate the jhuggis within one week. These jhuggis were to be demolished on April 11.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that thousands of people who have nowhere to go, could not simply be banished by demolishing their shelter. He added that the petitioners are students who have to appear in board examinations commencing from the next day.
The petitioners contended that if the slum dwellers are displaced, there will be no means of identifying the displaced population for eligibility of rehabilitation. Also, no survey had been conducted of the persons residing. They relied upon the decision of a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in Olga Tellis & Ors. vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985) in which it was held that the State would be failing in its constitutional duty if poor slum dwellers were to be evicted without rehabilitation, as the same would lead to deprivation of the right to life.