When Poor And Deprived Knock At Doors Of Court, Court Is Required To Be Sensitive - Delhi HC On Rights Of Slum Dwellers
The Delhi High Court while commenting on the rights of slum dwellers has held that the Court should be sensitive and sensitised when a poor approach the Court.
The Court noted "When the poor and deprived knock at the doors of the Court, the Court is required to be sensitive and sensitised in equal measure. The Court is required to remain alive to the fact that such litigants do not have access to exhaustive legal resources."
The Single Bench of Justice C. Hari Shankar was hearing a plea moved in by slum dwellers who had to shift to another location due to the expansion of the New Delhi Railway Station.
The petitioners averred that at the behest of the Railways, they had to shift to another location on the opposite side of the tracks, situated at Lahori Gate, and set up a slum colony there.
The petitioners contended that under the Policy for Relocation of Slum Dwellers of the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) (Relocation Policy) the eviction of the petitioners could not have been undertaken without a prior survey to ascertain the jhuggi dwellers who would be eligible for relocation under the Relocation Policy and, thereafter, allocating, to such eligible jhuggi dwellers, alternate plots where they could reside.
On the other hand the Railways contended that the Relocation Policy envisaged relocation only of residents of jhuggis which had been set up on or before 30th November 1998. They further contended that the petitioners‟ jhuggi at Lahori gate was set up only in 2003, and therefore the petitioners could not be regarded as entitled to relocation.
To this the petitioners argued that as holders of documents which proved that they were residing in jhuggis, albeit on the other side of the tracks, since the 1980s, and in view of the admission, by the Railways, that they had been shifted, at the Railways‟ insistence, to the Lahori Gate area in 2003, the petitioners could not be regarded as ineligible for relocation under the Relocation Policy.
The Court observed that "If, a resident of the Lahori Gate jhuggi had been a jhuggi dweller, albeit on the other side of the tracks, from a period prior to the cut off date of 30th November 1998, it would be unjust, unfair and contrary to the avowed purpose and objective of the Relocation Policy to deny him the benefit of relocation".
The Court opined that "So long, therefore, as the jhuggi dweller is able to establish, from such documents, that he has been a jhuggi resident, whether in that jhuggi or in any other jhuggi, prior to 30th November 1998, the benefit of the Relocation Policy cannot be denied to him."
The Court observed that it was dealing with a situation not strictly envisaged by the Relocation Policy.
The Court noted that "…having themselves compelled the petitioners to set up a new jhuggi in 2003, the Railways cannot use that date as the basis to deny, to the petitioners, their right to relocation, even though they were residing in jhuggis elsewhere prior to the cut off date of 30th November 1998. This would be contrary to every known tenet of propriety and fair play."
The Court held that the stand of the respondents that the jhuggi, at the Lahori Gate side of the railway tracks, from where the petitioners were uprooted, came into existence only in 2003, the petitioners were not entitled to the benefit of the Relocation Policy by virtue of the concluding stipulation in para 6 thereof, cannot sustain on facts or in law.
"If the petitioners have been residents of the Shahid Basti jhuggi in Nabi Karim, prior to 30th November 1998, they would be entitled to the benefit of the Relocation Policy, even if the jhuggi at the Lahori Gate site, from which they were removed, came up only in 2003", the Court noted.
The Court held that Subject, to the petitioners being able to demonstrate, to the respondents, that were residents of the Shahid Basti jhuggi in Nabi Karim from a date prior to 30th November 1998, they would be entitled to the benefit of the Relocation Policy and would, therefore, be entitled to alternative accommodation.
Accordingly, the Court held-
"As a result, this petition is allowed to the following extent:
(i) It is declared that
(a) if the petitioners have been residents of the Shahid Basti jhuggi in Nabi Karim near the railway tracks or the foot over bridge at New Delhi Railway Station, from a date prior to 30th November 1998, and have been continuously living in jhuggis till 14th June, 2008, when they were removed, and (b) if they are still residing in jhuggis as on date, they would be entitled to be relocated and granted plots in accordance with their entitlement as per Clause 7 of the Relocation Policy.
(ii) In order to satisfy the respondents in this regard, the petitioners would present themselves before the officer, to be intimated by the respondent to Learned Counsel for the petitioner within a week with all documents in their possession, to demonstrate compliance with conditions (a) and (b) in (i) supra.
(iii) Proof of residence would be permitted to be adduced not only by Ration Cards or by Voter ID Cards, but also by any other document, issued by a public or Governmental authority, which is verifiable in nature. It would be for the Railways to verify the authenticity, genuineness and acceptability of the concerned document. In case any of the petitioners is required to produce any additional document, in the event of the documents produced by said petitioner(s) being found to be unsatisfactory, the Railways would apprise the concerned petitioner(s) accordingly.
(iv) The petitioners who are found, on a perusal of the documents and keeping in mind the observations and findings in this judgement, to be entitled to alternative allotment, would be allotted such alternative accommodation, as per the petitioners‟ entitlement and in accordance with the Relocation Policy. This shall be done as expeditiously as possible and not, in any event, later than 6 months from the date of production of the documents by the concerned petitioner(s) before the Railways."