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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Demolition of slum dwellings stopped in Surat after Supreme Court orders status quo

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant passed the order after the matter was mentioned for urgent listing before it.

By: Express News Service | Surat |
August 25, 2021 12:12:51 am
Gonsalves told the bench that the high court had vacated its July 23, 2014 interim order of status quo and permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon third Railway line project. (File)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered status quo on the demolition of slum dwellings along railway tracks between Surat railway station and Udhna railway station in Surat after which the demolition activities that began in the morning were stopped by the railway authorities.

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant passed the order after the matter was mentioned for urgent listing before it.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that in compliance with the Gujarat High Court’s August 19 order, directing eviction of over 10,000 slum dwellers, the authorities were going to start the demolition work on Tuesday itself.

“List the matter on August 25, 2021 before an appropriate bench. Till August 25, 2021, the concerned authorities are directed to maintain status quo,” the bench said in its order.

Gonsalves told the bench that the high court had vacated its July 23, 2014 interim order of status quo and permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon third Railway line project.

After the railway served notices to the illegal slums dwellers between Surat to Udhna Railway stations, late Congress leader Rizwan Usmani moved the Gujarat High Court in 2014 on behalf of the slum dwellers and the court stayed the demolition that was lifted on August 19, 2021.
On August 22, the railway authorities issued notices to around 10,000 slum dwellers on both the sides of the railway tracks from Utran Railway Station to Bhestan Railway station to vacate their houses within 24 hours.

On Tuesday morning, the Railway authorities, led by two additional divisional railway managers, engineering staff, technical staff, along with personnel of Surat city police, RPF, GRP and SRP reached Mafatnagar, Magdoom Nagar slums and started demolition activities.

The residents tried to plead with the officials but the demolition activities continued.

By afternoon, after the SC order came, advocate Zamir Shaikh, lawyer of the slum dwellers, reached the spot with a copy of the order, after which the demolition activities were stopped.

Surat Railway station director Dinesh Verma said, “Around 1,000 huts were demolished. We will wait till tomorrow and decide on our future course of action.”

Shaikh said, “There are over 10,000 people residing in slums here… They were not given alternate houses under PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) or Mukhya Mantri Awas Yojna… they are on the roads. Further hearing will take place in the Supreme court on Wednesday.”

Kailash Devi, a resident of Mafatnagar railway slum, said appealing to Darshana Jardosh Union minister of Railways for State who belongs to Surat, “Our slums are being demolished… Please allot awas to us. The majority of the people residing in our areas are working as labourers… We have been staying here for over 30 years and are poor. We are ready to vacate but provide us alternate houses.”

The plea, filed by Surat-based “Utran se Bhestan Railway Jhopadpatti Vikas Mandal”, said that “irreparable injury” would be caused to the slum dwellers, who are residing on the Railway land, if they are not provided with alternate arrangement and once they are made homeless, their condition would become more miserable especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The impugned order dated August 19, 2021 violates the various judgments laid down by the Supreme Court of India in which the court has held Right to Housing as an important ingredient of Article 21 of the Constitution of India and has emphasized on the rehabilitation of the slum dwellers,” said the plea while challenging the high court order.

It said the petition has been filed for and on behalf of around 10,000 slum dwellers who are living near the Railway lines in the city of Surat. “They have been residing on Railway land for more than 60 years now. Most of them have proof of residence… voter ID cards and ration cards…,” it said.

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