Reiterating that right to housing is an essential part of right to life which is not merely an animal existence but entitlement to reasonable accommodation, the Delhi High Court has come to the aid of 14 slum dwellers, earlier declared ineligible by the Delhi government for rehabilitation, as it held them entitled for alternate accommodation after being removed for expansion of National Highway-24.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Harishankar found 14 ‘jhuggi jhopri’ dwellers from Rajeev Camp, Mandawali, who were faced with homelessness, eligible for allotment of flats under the Relocation & Rehabilitation (R & R ) Policy of the Delhi Government and directed the latter to issue them allotment letters forthwith and handover the possession of flats in three months, subject to them depositing required amount of Rs 1.42 lakh and necessary documents.
“It is trite that the right to housing is an essential part of Right to Life and a fundamental right ensured by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It has also been held that the right to life is not right to merely an animal existence but an entitlement to reasonable accommodation,” the bench held.
“The contours of this right were further expanded by a pronouncement of the Supreme Court reported at (1997) 11 SCC 123, Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation v. Nawab Khan Gulab Khan & Ors. wherein the court held that when slum dwellers have been residing at a place for some time, it became the duty of the government to make schemes for housing these jhuggi dwellers,” it said.
The 14 persons, along with others, had moved Delhi High Court through advocates Robin R David and Dhiraj Philip fearing homelessness after their hutments were demolished by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board and later handed eviction notice early this month.
They were found ineligible for rehabilitation as the DUSIB said they were unable to prove that they have been residing at Rajeev Camp for long and their names did not appear in the voters lists of the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
These 14 persons were able to produce before the court records, including the school record of their wards. to show their continued residence at Rajeev Camp. It was on the court’s order that a local commissioner had scrutinised their records.
The bench found “substance in the submission” made by Mr. David that many of the petitioners had documents dating as far back as the year 1995 and blamed the loss of documents and gap on their extreme poverty, illiteracy and inability to preserve and maintain proper records.
While granting relief to the 14 slum dwellers who had been living in tin sheds after their hutments were demolished by DUSIB, the court refused the same relief to 28 co-petitioners who could not produce enough proof of continuous stay at Rajiv Camp.
On DUSIB insisting on names of persons to be in the electoral rolls for being eligible for rehabilitation scheme, the bench said, “We find that the persons who were found ineligible were in possession of public identification, including Voter ID – cards. The failure of the names of such persons to feature in the electoral roll could be for any number of reasons. The same could happen if the person was not at home at the time the Booth Level Officer visited Jhuggi of the person concerned. This could be on account of the occupation of the person or for the person and adults of the family having left the Jhuggi for work.”
“Therefore, even though these petitioners could not produce the record of their names featuring in the electoral rolls over the period prescribed in the policy, however, if an holistic view is undertaken of the documentation as produced, it would amply establish the residence and existence of these persons at the Rajiv Camp for the periods from 1998 till 2016,” held the bench.
The bench, however, refused to uphold the petitioner’s challenge to the requirement in the Delhi government’s R&R Policy, making it mandatory that the name of the dwellers must appear in the joint survey conducted by the DUSIB and the land owning agency for alternate accommodation.