Expressing concern over the lot of homeless persons during the winter, the Supreme Court on Monday directed Delhi and other States to ensure that adequate shelters were provided for night stay. The Bench observed that not a single person must be allowed to die from having to sleep on the pavement in the freezing cold.

A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra expressed the concern that most States were yet to provide adequate night shelters, and asked the Chief Secretaries to personally monitor the provision of night shelters and file a comprehensive report to the court by January 3.

Justice Bhandari told Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran, who appeared for Delhi: “You should not allow even a single person to die this winter from the freezing cold.” Disputing the assertion of senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, who appeared for the People's Union for Civil Liberties, that there were inadequate night shelters in the capital, Mr. Parasaran said 64 night shelters were functioning. Mr. Gonsalves, however, countered that of the 64, only 42 were functional and 21 were closed because occupancy had come down.

Justice Bhandari observed “Has the number of homeless people decreased in Delhi? It is difficult to believe.” The Bench asked Court Commissioner N.C. Saxena to inspect and file a report to the court by January 3. The Bench was also not satisfied about the night shelters in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Punjab, West Bengal, Assam, Maharastra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Orissa.

As the affidavits filed by them lacked particulars, the Bench asked the Chief Secretaries to file comprehensive affidavits by January 6, 2012, and directed them to establish temporary shelters for the time being so that no one was left to sleep on pavements. The Jammu and Kashmir government informed the court that it did not have homeless people and the Bench asked the petitioner to verify this fact. The Bench listed the matter for further hearing on January 9.

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