“This is India in 2014”, remarked a visibly disturbed Delhi High Court on Wednesday after it was shown pictures of the dire state of homeless people in Delhi and their harassment at the hands of police, forcing it to order registration of FIR in complaints of brutality on roofless people.
The remark came from a Bench headed by Acting Chief Justice B.D. Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul who expressed dismay when they were shown a newspaper report and clipping of a homeless person dying on the road for want of shelter and then being eaten up by rats.
“Even jungle has laws,” the Bench said after it was told about the alleged police brutality on homeless people and also how 300 people died last winter due to lack of shelter.
“Please lodge the FIR immediately and have investigations done. No matter who the accused is, police or some one else, register FIR,” it said.
Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, representing the homeless people showed the Bench a picture of a homeless woman who was allegedly beaten up by the police and who died leaving behind two minor children. He said the Delhi Government has failed to provide shelter to 1-1.5 lakh homeless people in the Capital city.
“These heartless people treat homeless as criminals. The problem is with our attitude. In a welfare State can we allow people who cannot afford a house to die in cold,” Mr Bhushan submitted.
“Why was she beaten up? Even if she was a criminal, assuming so, she can not be beaten up like this. Not having shelter is one thing, getting beaten up for being homeless is another thing altogether,” the Bench told the counsel for Delhi Police.
The court was hearing a matter pertaining to lack of sufficient night shelters for homeless people in Delhi which was taken up by it suo motu in 2010 and is being pursued by an organisation called Shahari Adhikar Manch.
During the hearing, the court also pulled up the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board under the Delhi Government, saying, “What is DUSIB? It is a statutory body. Your job is to see that nobody sleeps on footpaths. You have been statutorily constituted for a purpose. You must plan ahead. Either you provide them shelters or give them home.”
When DUSIB said DDA is not giving it land for building shelters, the Bench said: “The only thing we do not appreciate is the attitude of passing the buck. Idea behind DUSIB is to see that nobody is without shelter.”
The court asked Mr. Bhushan if he can show it some evidence or pictures to prove his case. When presented with the pictures, the Bench was distraught.
It ordered DUSIB to file an affidavit indicating space required for ten persons or a family of five members in a night shelter.
“Mr. Bhushan, who appears for the petitioners, shall provide a list of cases in which complaints of brutality against homeless people is made in two days. Counsel for the Delhi Police shall ensure that action is taken on those complaints before March 12, and where necessary, without the further orders from this court, register FIR,” it said.
The court also directed DUSIB to indicate why it is not following the Master Plan 2021 which provides for one night shelter per one lakh population of Delhi.
When informed that four night shelters near Nigambodh Ghat at Yamuna Pushta have been cordoned off and will be dismantled for the Delhi Metro work, the court asked DUSIB to suggest an alternative site for the same.