NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that forced eviction of slum dwellers without rehabilitation “seeks to convey a sense of arbitrariness and of illegality” and violates their right to shelter guaranteed under the constitution. “In these circumstances, removal of their jhuggis without ensuring their relocation would amount to gross violation of their fundamental Rights,” said the judgment passed by bench comprising Justices S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru in pleas seeking relief in relation to the forced eviction of around 5,000 dwellers of jhuggi jhopri basti near the Madipur Metro Station in Delhi in December 2015.
The land, on which the slum was located, belonged to the Railways.The Railways informed the court that they were concerned about the safety of the persons who were living close to the railway tracks and that the forced eviction was to ensure that they are not exposed to the attendant risks.
The court said that it cannot help but observe that the action taken “has perhaps exposed the displaced persons to a graver risk particularly concerning that it has taken place in the peak winter season, and when one considers that the displaced population comprises children. In fact, there has been an unfortunate demise of one child.”
The Bench observed that the right to housing should not be interpreted in a narrow or restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over one‘s head or views shelter exclusively as a commodity. “Rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity...”
“In our opinion, the stand of the respondents that alternative land is not required to be allotted to the inhabitants of such land which comes under the Right of Way, is completely contrary to the state’s policy which governs relocation and rehabilitation of slum dwellers,” said the bench. “The state’s policy for resettlement nowhere exempts persons, who are otherwise eligible for benefit...” added the bench in its observations.