The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to compensate and rehabilitate migrant workers whose huts were burnt down by miscreants, near the Sunday Bazar area in Bengaluru East in March, during the lockdown period after ascertaining their present whereabouts.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy said "Prima facie it appears to us that this is a very high handed action on the part of the interested persons of destroying the huts, thereby, violating the fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India of the hut-dwellers."
It added "The State must make inquiry to ascertain the whereabouts of the occupants of the huts which were destroyed in the fire. The State will have to ensure that compensation is paid to them on account of destruction of their goods, they will also have to be rehabilitated. The statement of objections should state steps taken in this behalf."
The bench while posting the matter for further hearing to July 7, also directed the state to ensure the status quo of the land. "It would be the responsibility of the state to ensure that remaining huts are protected from such incidents," it said.
Government Pleader Vikram Huilgol informed the court that after the FIR is registered, three persons have been arrested so far and arrangements have been made to provide protection to the residents of the locality and avoid such incidents from being repeated by making appropriate police bandobast.
During the hearing the government placed on record the fire accident certificates which indicated that fire on March 24, took place in afternoon in which 15 huts were destroyed. There were ration kits and clothes in the huts set on fire. On March 30, about 30 huts were destroyed due to fire and ration kits and other things were destroyed.
The court said "Thus it appears from fire accident certificates the persons residing in the hutments never wanted to abandon the hutments as they had kept clothes, ration kits in the huts. Perhaps after the declaration of one days nationwide lockdown on March 22, which was followed by two days of partial lockdown by the Government of Karnataka the occupants of the huts must have gone back to their places of origin in the state."
The bench gave the direction while hearing a suo-motu petition taken up on the basis of a letter written by Advocate Vaishali Hegde informing about an incident