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Monday, September 28, 2020

Centre tells SC: No immediate removal of jhuggis at railway lines

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta conveyed this to a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, which took note of the submission and adjourned the hearing by four weeks.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: September 15, 2020 1:21:59 pm
The submission came when the court took up for hearing applications including one by Delhi Congress leader Ajay Maken against the SC’s August 31 direction to remove 48,000 jhuggis along railway tracks, including encroachments in the railway safety zone, within three months.

The Centre Monday told the Supreme Court that there will be no removal of slum clusters along railway tracks in Delhi till the departments concerned that are looking into the issue come up with a decision.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta conveyed this to a bench headeddelhi by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, which took note of the submission and adjourned the hearing by four weeks.

“Mr Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the respondent, Union of India, states that the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and the Government of NCT of Delhi are going to take a decision on the issue raised in the instant interlocutory applications and till then they will not take any coercive action against the slum dwellers. Stand over for four weeks,” the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramaniam, said in its order.

The submission came when the court took up for hearing applications including one by Delhi Congress leader Ajay Maken against the SC’s August 31 direction to remove 48,000 jhuggis along railway tracks, including encroachments in the railway safety zone, within three months.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in the Delhi Assembly on Monday that the Centre’s affidavit was positive and the different agencies in the city will have to work together to ensure jhuggi dwellers are not left stranded.

The August 31 order directed that “a comprehensive plan for removal of jhuggis be made and executed in a phased manner”. It also directed that “encroachments which are there in the safety zones should be removed within a period of three months and no interference, political or otherwise, should be there and no court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments in the area in question”.

The direction came after the Railways pointed out to the court in a matter of removal of plastic and other garbage along the tracks that “there are predominant presence of jhuggis” along “140 km route length of track in Delhi”.

Kejriwal also said rehabilitation of jhuggi dwellers before demolition of their houses was mandatory as per law. He also said removing jhuggis during the pandemic would lead to problems: “We should not proceed in this direction till the time corona subsides so that these areas do not become hotspots and lead to spread of disease.”

The Delhi government had earlier written to the Northern Railways, telling them that jhuggi residents can be shifted to houses built by it on payment of up to Rs 11 lakh per house, but not before March next year.

“If politicians or officers do not work for a day, life will move on, but if jhuggi dwellers don’t work, the city will come to a stop… In 70 years, no one made housing plans for them. This is why jhuggis mushroomed… Till the time I am alive, I won’t let you suffer. If I have to plead or fight with anyone, I will do it. I assure you, either the Centre or the state will give you alternate housing,” he said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing in the matter Monday, urged the court to order a status quo, but the bench pointed out that the Centre has already stated that there will be status quo till a decision is taken.

Singhvi said that some demolitions had taken place last week. Mehta, however, said these might have been under some other order but not the August 31 order.

Maken, in his plea, urged the court to direct authorities to rehabilitate slum dwellers before evicting them and removing the clusters as per the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, and the protocol (for removal of jhuggis).

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