The Delhi High Court has dismissed a batch of Writ Petitoins filed by several Indian Classical artists challenging the eviction notices issued by the Centre and directed them to vacate their government allotted residences in the national capital in two months.

To enable all the petitioner artists to make alternative arrangements and be able to exit the premises with dignity, the Court granted a two-month grace period to them from the date of this order to hand over the possession of the accommodations.

The Centre had given the deadline of December 31, 2020, to vacate the premises which were stayed after the petitions were filed.

The Court said that it will be open for the centre to take action if the petitioners did not comply with its order.

"However, a failure on the part of the petitioners to vacate the premises within the aforesaid period shall leave the respondents open to take such further action as may be permissible in law," Justice Yashwant Varma said, in a common judgement passed in all the petitions.

The Court delivered its verdict on the pleas by Mohiniyattam dancer Bharati Shivaji, Kuchipudi dancer Guru V Jayarama Rao, Mayadhar Raut, Dhrupad singer Ustad F Wasifuddin Dagar, Rani Shinghal, Kathak expert Geetanjali Lal, KR Subanna, Kamal Sabri, Devraj Dakoji, Kamalini, artist Jatin Das, Pt Bhajan Sopori and Rita Ganguly.

The Court noted that all the petitioners are artists of repute and masters in their own right in varied fields of the Indian classical arts.

"Amongst them are dancers, musicians, exponents of instruments such as the sitar, santoor to name just a few," the Court said.

It noted that these artists of national and international repute have amongst them many who have been conferred the highest civilian honours of the country and have become legends in their lifetime.

"In recognition of their standing of eminence and the invaluable contribution made by them for the propagation and preservation of classical art forms, they were allotted the premises in question under a discretionary quota by the respondents," the Court said.

The Centre was represented through standing counsel Ajay Digpaul and lawyer Kamal R Digpaul.

The Court said it is an undisputed fact that all the petitioners have remained in possession of the public premises for decades together and neither the 1985 nor the 2008 policies of government-guaranteed or held out any promise of extension of the license period beyond the maximum period prescribed.

It also becomes relevant to note that in the case of most of the petitioners here, the allotments had come to an end upon the expiry of a period of three years, the original term reserved thereunder. These allotments had been made in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1996, 2001, and 2004. Even after the expiry of the original period of allotment, the petitioners were permitted to retain the premises, it said.

The Court said the case of the petitioners does not rest on any express promise held out by the authorities and no right stood conferred upon them to occupy public premises indefinitely.

The continued occupation of the premises by them was during the period when the respondents were engaged in undertaking a comprehensive review and revision of the policy itself. The mere fact that the petitioners were permitted to retain possession during the time while the policy was under review, cannot be countenanced as giving birth to substantive rights in favour of the petitioner, it said.

In October 2020, 27 eminent personalities most in the 50 to 90 age group, including artists, dancers, and musicians were sent notices by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, to vacate their government allotted accommodations across Delhi by December 31, "failing which eviction proceeding will be initiated as per Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act".

Click here to read/download Judgment

With PTI inputs