People do not stay in slums out of choice: Delhi HC 

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court directed relocation of five slum dwellers who were shifted from Shahid Basti jhuggi in Nabi Karim to Lahori Gate side at the time of the expansion of the New Delhi railway station.

Justice C. Hari Shankar said the five slum dwellers would present themselves before the officer concerned of the Indian Railways with all documents in their possession to demonstrate that they have been residing in Shahid Basti jhuggi since the 1980s.

“Rarely is it that jhuggi dwellers can claim to permanently establish themselves at any particular site. They are often uprooted from the place where they dwell, shifted, perforce and often against their will, elsewhere,” Justice Shankar observed.

Last-ditch effort

“Hounded by poverty and penury, they have no option but to comply,” Justice Shankar said, adding, “Slum dwellers do not stay in slums out of choice. Their choice of residence is a last-ditch effort at securing for themselves what the Constitution regards as an inalienable adjunct to the right to life under Article 21, viz. the right to shelter and a roof over their heads”.

The High Court’s remarks came while dealing with a petition filed by five slum dwellers in 2008 against their eviction even from the Lahori Gate side of the railways land due to the continuing expansion and modernisation of the New Delhi railway station.

The Railways have acknowledged the fact that during the exercise of increasing the number of platforms in the New Delhi Railway Station in 2003, they had to remove the jhuggis in the Shahid Basti below the foot over bridge and shift them to the Lahori Gate side.

Jhuggis demolished

To expand the railway station, the jhuggis situated on Lahori Gate side were demolished on June 14, 2008.

This prompted the slum dweller to approach the High Court. They contended that under the Policy for Relocation of Slum Dwellers of the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), their eviction could not have been undertaken without a prior survey to ascertain the jhuggi dwellers who would be eligible for relocation under the relocation policy.

Not entitled to relocation

The Railways argued that the relocation policy envisaged relocation only of residents of jhuggis which had been set up on or before November 30, 1998. The present jhuggi dwellers at Lahori Gate having admittedly been set up only in 2003, the Railways contended that they could not be regarded as entitled to relocation.

Justice Shankar, however, pointed out that the relocation policy does not address the plight of persons who, though the jhuggis in which they were residing at the time of visit by the authorities had come up after November 30, 1998, were in fact, residing in jhuggis elsewhere prior to the said cut-off date.

“If, in other words, the jhuggi dweller could, using his ration card or other valid document, establish that, prior to November 30, 1998, he was a jhuggi resident somewhere in Delhi, he had to be regarded as a “beneficiary” under the relocation policy,” Justice Shankar said.

“That he may have shifted to the Lahori Gate jhuggi after 1998 cannot, in my view, be a hindrance to his entitlement,” the judge added.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 1:51:02 am |