NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre to verify in a time-bound manner the number of homeless people across the country as it expressed misgivings about the figures furnished to it by the Centre on the basis of feedback from the states.
The apex court's Social Justice Bench comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in its first sitting Friday observed that Centre itself was not clear on the number of roofless people.
As Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha tried to wriggle out of the verification exercise, the court said: "You can't say that this is our scheme but we are not bothered who implemented the scheme."
Narasimha suggestion that court could issue notice to the state governments and get the numbers did not find favour with the court.
The Centre gave the figures that it had received from the state governments and union territories in the meeting of the chief secretaries of states and administrators of the UT held Nov 21, 2014. The meeting was called upon direction of the apex court.
The court also directed the Centre and the state governments to constitute by Dec 31 the executive committee of the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) in their respective spheres to oversee the implementation of the different programmes of the mission for alleviating the conditions of urban poor.
The NULM is a centrally-sponsored scheme to address the needs of the urban poor including providing shelter for urban homeless.
The executive committee will be chaired by the secretary, housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry.
The court order came in the course of the hearing of a plea for night shelter for urban poor on a petition by the Supreme Court counsel E.R. Kumar.
Narasimha will take up the matter with the chairperson of the executive committee, which will have representatives of the civil society, too.
As Narasimha sought one month for constituting the committee, Justice Lalit observed that by that time the winter will be over.
The court ordered the state governments to make arrangements for housing roofless poor in other not-in-use buildings as Kumar urged the court to direct the eight north Indian states to provide adequate night shelters for the homeless people as winter was already becoming intense.
Mocking at the figures of the homeless poor in different states provided by the government according to which Andhra Pradesh had just 4,620 homeless people, counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for another petitioner, said that according to the census there were 75,000 homeless people in Delhi but Delhi government has made arrangements for 17,000 people only.
He told the court that Delhi government was providing just 15sqft of space for each person in the night shelter. He said that calculating the space for a person by a measurement of 6ft by three feet, a person would require 18sqft of space.
Meeting the argument of Delhi government that their night shelters were unoccupied, Bhushan said: "Because people feel they are better off outside than staying in night shelters."