The Karnataka High Court on Thursday directed the state government to grant approval to all 166 night shelters as required to house urban homeless people and issue directions to all concerned to ensure that night shelters as per the requirement are established.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj said "While the government does so, priority will have to be given to BBMP, Hubli-Dharwad and Mysore. In BBMP areas, though 84 night shelters are required, only 10 are functioning. In Hubli-Dharwad and Mysore the requirement is for 9 night shelters each, but only 2 and 1 are functioning respectively."
It added, "We therefore direct the state government to ensure that at least 42-night shelters are made functional within the limits of BBMP, within three months from today. Remaining 42 shelters shall be made functional within six months from today. As regards the other places mentioned on page 28-29, no of night shelters required shall have to be established and made functional within three months from today."
The directions were given during the hearing of a petition filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Karnataka, which sought implementation of the State Government order dated 29.05.2014, in regards to Urban Homeless Shelters.
Advocate Mohammed Afeef, appearing for the petitioner, had earlier submitted that there are around 40 functional centres in the state of Karnataka and the capacity of accommodation of each of the centres is around 50 to 60 people. It was also contended by him that admittedly there are very few night shelters in the state and he urged the court to issue directions to the state government for setting up night shelters as per the requirement.
The state government placed on record an affidavit giving details of the survey conducted about the number of homeless people in the state. According to the survey there are around 7,282 total homeless people in the state. The court said "At this stage we are not going into the question of correctness of the collection of data and survey, it will have to be dealt with at an appropriate time."
It added "What is important is a chart appended on page 28-29, giving figures of night shelters which are required in cities having more than 1 lakh population and district headquarters. It is pointed out that the requirement in the cities having more than 1 lakh population and district headquarters is 166-night shelters, out of which only 54 have been approved and only 46 are functioning. To say the least this is a shocking state of affairs."
The court also directed the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, who in turn will ensure that secretaries of district legal services authority along with para legal volunteers make surprise visits at randomly selected existing night shelters, with a view to ascertain whether all facilities as required are available. "A report shall be submitted by the secretary within a period of one month from today," it said.
The court also directed the state government to place on record the steps taken to set up day shelters as per the revised operation guidelines for the scheme of shelters of urban homeless under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana, issued in 2018.
The matter has now been posted for further hearing on August 24, for consideration of the compliance report to be filed by the government.