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"Land In Delhi Is Valuable" : Supreme Court Calls For Vigilant Checks Against Encroachments On Public Lands

Srishti Ojha
2 May 2022 2:22 PM GMT
Land In Delhi Is Valuable : Supreme Court Calls For Vigilant Checks Against Encroachments On Public Lands
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While dealing with a matter related to the eviction of slum dwellers in Sarojini Nagar in New Delhi, the Supreme Court on Monday made certain observations on the need for vigilant and immediate action against encroachments, so that people can't claim rights over public lands years later.A bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, which had earlier stayed the eviction of the...

While dealing with a matter related to the eviction of slum dwellers in Sarojini Nagar in New Delhi, the Supreme Court on Monday made certain observations on the need for vigilant and immediate action against encroachments, so that people can't claim rights over public lands years later.

A bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, which had earlier stayed the eviction of the slum dwellers, directed the Union Government's nodal officer to verify the claims of the residents.

On the issue of encroachments on public land, the bench observed that there has to be a fine balancing of rights to deal with the real problem, and vigilant checks need to be conducted by the officers.

"There has to be fine balancing of rights to deal with real problem. Land in Delhi particularly is very valuable in terms of catering to building needs for government, development activities, offices have to come up etc. Each time if this problem comes up, there has to be balancing with very vigilant checks by officers", Justice KM Joseph said.

The judge further suggested that in case these encroachments come up, the concerned officers should be held responsible if the encroachments are not removed immediately.

"All government lands you could monitor through camera, you can have a centralised system, you'll be immediately find out, it's not very expensive also", Justice Joseph said. 

"Don't give rise to fresh rights, it's a public land", Justice Joesph said.

Addressing the Additional Solicitor General, the bench further suggested that the proper thing to do would be to conduct a proper survey to find out how many persons have been living for how long and then pass appropriate orders.

The ASG informed the Supreme Court that it will appoint a nodal officer to examine the situation and verify the residential status of the dwellers.

The bench recorded the submissions made by Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj and directed the petitioner dwellers to provide the following details to the nodal officer:

  • Details regarding location of jhuggis
  • Duration of their stay in that location
  • Any document supporting such details
  • Details of family members
  • Income details and vocation carried out

The bench clarified that the direction has been passed only with the respect to the petitioners and the list of 172 families annexed with the writ petition. It has been further clarified that the present exercise will be without prejudice to rights and contentions of both sides.

While directing the matter to be listed in the third week of July, the bench directed that the ASG's undertaking to take no coercive steps against the slum dwellers in the interim will continue till the next date of hearing.

The bench also disposed of an impleadment application filed by the Jhuggi jhopadi Committee seeking relief by directing them to pursue appropriate remedy before the High Court.

In an interim relief to jhuggi dwellers from Sarojini Nagar in Delhi, the Supreme Court had on last occasion asked the Central Government to desist from taking coercive steps to evict them. The ASG had undertaken to take no coercive steps against the slum dwellers in the interim.

"Deal with them humanly when you deal with them. As a model government, you can't say you won't have a policy (to rehabilitate) and simply throw them away. You're dealing with families..", the bench had observed last week.

The present special petition has been filed challenging order passed by the Division Bench of Delhi High Court refusing to interfere with Single Judge's order declining to provide Rehabilitation/ Relocation of the Slum Dwellers residing in Jhuggis of Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi.

The petitioners have sought an ad-interim ex-parte order staying the operation of High Court's impugned judgment and demolition/eviction orders by Union of India dated 04.04.2022.

The petitioners are residents of Sarojini Nagar including three minor school going children and a senior citizen, and have challenged the Court's order allowing demolition of jhuggis or eviction of the slum dwellers as per the order dated 04.04.2022 issued by the Respondent No. 1, without any alternate arrangements being made for them.

The petition filed through Advocate Aman Panwar and Advocate Nitin Saluja has stated that the petitioners along with about 1000 persons/ about 200 families have been residing in the said Jhuggis for more than four decades i.e. since the 1980s.

The petitioners have submitted that urgency in the present case arises out of the fact that the Respondent No. 1 had issued demolition/eviction notices and the houses of the Petitioners will be demolished anytime. In view of the same, the Petitioners are in urgent need of relief from the Court since irreparable injury and grave prejudice will be cause to their life and liberty.

The Petitioners have submitted that they do not seek to hinder any of the development work/ public project undertaken by the Government, and are only seeking rehabilitation/relocation as per the policies of the State.

The petitioners have pointed out that in view of the various pronouncements of the High Court of Delhi wherein forced eviction (without Rehabilitation/ Relocation) of Slum Dwellers has been strongly disregarded. And also keeping in mind the Delhi Slum Rehabilitation Policy, which provides that all Jhuggis that came into existence prior to 01.01.2006 are qualified to be rehabilitated,

The petitioners have argued that the Respondent Authorities cannot deny alternate accommodation/ rehabilitation for the indigent jhuggi residents considering the following:

* The various pronouncements of the High Court of Delhi wherein forced eviction (without Rehabilitation/ Relocation) of Slum Dwellers has been strongly disregarded.

* The Delhi Slum Rehabilitation Policy, which provides that all Jhuggis that came into existence prior to 01.01.2006 are qualified to be rehabilitated.

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