Delhi High Court refuses to extend time for artistes to vacate government allotted residence

Ganguly challenged the single judge's order and also urged the court to grant her a few more months to vacate the premises.
Delhi High Court (File Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)
Delhi High Court (File Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to grant more time to Indian classical artiste Rita Ganguly, who had challenged a single judge's decision directing her and others to vacate government allotted residences in the national capital by April end.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Navin Chawla said it will not grant even one more day and noted that the single judge was more than benevolent while granting two months' time to the artistes to vacate government accommodation.

As the court cautioned the counsel for the 81-year-old Ganguly that it will impose heavy costs on her, the lawyer sought to withdraw the appeal. "Dismiss as withdrawn," the division bench said.

A single judge of the high court on February 25 had dismissed a batch of pleas by several Indian classical artistes challenging the eviction notices issued by the Centre and had directed them to vacate government allotted residences here in two months.

The court had said to enable all the petitioner artistes to make arrangements and be able to exit the premises with dignity, it was granting a two-month grace period to them from the date of this order to hand over the possession of the accommodations.

Ganguly challenged the single judge's order and also urged the court to grant her a few more months to vacate the premises.

However, the bench said, "We are putting you on caution. Be mindful that the order will come with heavy costs. The single judge has already granted you two months. The single judge was more than benevolent."

It further made clear that it was not granting even a single day and termed the plea as "completely nonsensical".

The Centre had given a deadline of December 31, 2020, to vacate the premises but the notice was stayed by the high court after the petitions were filed.

The court had said that it would be open for the Centre to take action if the petitioners did not comply with its February order.

The single judge had 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 Ganguly.

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

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

The court had said it was an undisputed fact that all the petitioners have remained in possession of public premises for decades together and neither the 1985 nor the 2008 policies of the 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 had said.

In October 2020, 27 eminent personalities most in the 50 to 90 age group, including artistes, 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, 2020, "failing which eviction proceeding will be initiated as per Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act".

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