“Jhuggi dwellers are not to be treated as secondary citizens”: Delhi High Court

Delhi Shramik Sangathan

After several years, a land mark judgment has come in favor of slum dwellers. We can say that a pro poor judgment has been delivered by the judiciary on the basis of existing legislation & policies, which were denied to them earlier in several cases.

A division bench of Delhi High court comprising justice A P Shah & justice S Murlidhar has delivered the order yesterday. The case was filed by members of Delhi Shramik Sangathan of New Sanjay camp, Okhla Industrial area, New Delhi. The part of Sanjay camp was demolished on 5th Feb’09 by PWD in the name of Right of Way and the evictees were not resettled under the relocation policy. The part of Nehru camp of Patparganj was also demolished in 2007 in the name of Right of way by PWD and the evictees were not resettled.

The case was represented in the court by eminent Supreme Court lawyer Sh Prashant Bhushan & his committed team. The DSS members of New Sanjay camp put a lot of effort in collecting information & evidences in support of the case. The central team of DSS provided all secondary information & other inputs. The DSS local team worked with assistance of lawyer Mr. Somesh & Mr. Rohit of Mr. Prashant Bhushan team.

Below is the report on the judgement from a mainstream newspaper, The Hindu:

NEW DELHI: Observing that “jhuggi dwellers are not to be treated as secondary citizens and are entitled to no less an access to basic survival needs as any other citizen”, the Delhi High Court on Thursday ruled that every eligible slum dweller has to be relocated to a place with proper civic amenities before being evicted from a piece of public land.

A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice A. P. Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar delivered the judgment on a bunch of petitions seeking proper relocation of jhuggi dwellers whose slums set up at various places across the Capital were demolished without relocating them at alternative sites.

Dismissing the argument of the Delhi Government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi that these jhuggi dwellers did not deserve to be relocated as they had set up their jhuggis on public roads and thus violated the “right of way”, the Bench said: “This Court would like to emphasise that in the context of the Master Plan for Delhi-2021, jhuggi dwellers are not to be treated as secondary citizens. They are entitled to no less an access to basic survival needs as any other citizen”.

“It must be remembered that the Master Plan for Delhi-2021 clearly identifies the relocation of slum dwellers as one of the priorities for the government.

Spaces have been earmarked for housing of the economically weaker sections. The government will be failing in its statutory and Constitutional obligation if it fails to identify spaces equipped infra-structurally with civic amenities that can ensure a decent living to those being relocated prior to initiating the moves for eviction,” the Bench ruled.

“The decision of the respondents holding that the petitioners are on the ‘right of way’ and are, therefore, not entitled to relocation is hereby declared illegal and unconstitutional. In terms of the extant policy for relocation of jhuggi dwellers, which is operational in view of the orders of the Supreme Court, the cases of the petitioners will be considered for relocation,” the Bench said.

The Bench said that within four months from today each of those eligible among the petitioners in terms of the relocation policy be granted an alternative site as per the Master Plan subject to proof of residence prior to the cut-off date.

This will happen in consultation with each of them in a meaningful manner as indicated in this judgment.

The State agencies will ensure that basic civic amenities consistent with the right to life and dignity of each of the citizens in the jhuggis are available at the site of relocation.

The Bench ordered that a copy of this order be sent to the Member-Secretary, Delhi Legal Services Authority, with the request that wide publicity be given to the operative portion and directions of this judgment in the local language among the residents of jhuggi clusters in the city as well as in the relocated sites.

It said the Legal Services Authority would also hold periodic camps in jhuggi clusters and in relocated sites to make the residents aware of their rights. “A copy of this order be also sent to the Delhi Chief Secretary for compliance,” the Bench added.

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