Directing the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to go ahead with the demolition of unauthorised jhuggis on the Yamuna floodplains only in consultation with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the Delhi High Court has said people cannot be evicted “with a bulldozer at their doorstep early in the morning or late in the evening, without any notice, rendering them completely shelterless”.
Justice Subramonium Prasad said the action of the DDA in removing a person, whom they claim to be an encroacher, overnight from his residence, cannot be accepted. “A reasonable period has to be given to such persons and temporary location has to be provided to them before embarking on any demolition activities,” said the court, while directing the DDA to give sufficient time to dwellers to make alternate arrangements.
The court said that alternatively, steps should be taken to accommodate the dwellers in shelters provided by the DUSIB for three months so that persons, whose jhuggis are being demolished, are able to find alternate accommodations. The order has been passed in a petition filed by Shakarpur Slum Union alleging that DDA officials, on June 25, without any notice arrived at the area and demolished about 300 jhuggis.
In the petition filed through advocate Kawalpreet Kaur, it was argued that JJ Basti in Shakarpur has been in existence since 1980, and most of its residents are migrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal who are labourers, ragpickers, rickshaw-pullers, auto drivers and domestic workers. The DDA in response told the court that demolition was carried out at a distance from those mentioned in the list of clusters published by the DUSIB for rehabilitation, and in compliance with the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Justice Prasad said encroachment on government land cannot be said to be a fundamental right of any person and people encroaching cannot claim to be entitled to rehabilitation as a matter of right in absence of any policy. However, while taking note of the observations made in an earlier decision of the HC, the court said it is not uncommon to find jhuggi dwellers desperately trying to save whatever precious little belongings and documents they have, when a bulldozer lands at their doorstep.
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Taking note of the DUSIB’s policy, under which it is ensured that no demolition takes place when academic year is about to end, or during monsoons, Justice Prasad said the court expects the DDA to follow similar norms. However, the court declined to pass any order to stop DDA action against the unauthorised jhuggis.
“As the NGT has assumed jurisdiction of the sensitive issue pertaining to the resuscitation and rejuvenation of the Yamuna floodplains, this court does not deem it appropriate to disturb the same by way of a mandamus to the DDA to allow DUSIB to conduct a survey,” it said.