A division bench of the Delhi High Court Monday passed a judgment stressing on the concept of ‘right to the city’, while disposing of a petition pertaining to the December 2015 demolition at Shakur Basti, during which more than 5,000 slum dwellers were evicted and a six-month-old child had died when a piece of furniture fell on her head.
The bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vibhu Bakhru incorporated a quote from Nelson Mandela in the judgment: “A simple vote, without food, shelter and healthcare, is to use first generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people.”
It added: “The right to housing is a bundle of rights not limited to a bare shelter over one’s head. It includes the right to livelihood, right to health, right to education and right to food, including right to clean drinking water, sewerage and transport facilities.”
For a more humane demolition and eviction process, the bench directed the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to develop protocol that will “list out the various stages, beginning with a comprehensive survey, drawing up of list of persons eligible for various proposed measures… under the DUSIB Act, the actual provision of relief by way of in-situ upgradation or resettlement and rehabilitation measures”.
The protocol shall be followed by all agencies, including the Delhi Police, in the event of any action for removal of JJ clusters in the future and “once a JJ basti/cluster is eligible for rehabilitation, the agencies should cease viewing the JJ dwellers therein as illegal encroachers,” the judgment read.
The petition was filed by former Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken, represented by advocates Aman Panwar, Mudit Gupta and Nitin Saluja. The petitioner had sought relief in connection with the forced eviction of around 5,000 dwellers of Shakur Basti near Madipur Metro Station in Delhi on December 12, 2015.
Since the demolition, JJ dwellers have been living in makeshift tents in the area. The court has directed that residents must be rehabilitated in keeping with the draft policy, preferably in situ. In case no in-situ rehabilitation is feasible then, “adequate time will be given to such dwellers to make arrangements to move to the relocation site”, it said.
Stressing on ‘right to the city’, the division bench said the concept was integral to the right to adequate housing, tracing its origins to the ‘Istanbul Declaration of Human Settlements’ and the ‘New Urban Agenda’, which was adopted at the United Nations Conference in Quito, Ecuador on October 20, 2016.
“The right to the city acknowledges that those living in JJ clusters in jhuggis/slums continue to contribute to the social and economic life of a city. It would include sanitation workers, garbage collectors, domestic help, rickshaw pullers, labourers and a wide range of service providers indispensable to a healthy urban life,” the judgment read.