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Ajay Maken files application in SC seeking rehabilitation of slum dwellers before eviction

Congress leader Ajay Maken have sought to intervene in the MC Mehta Vs UOI case, in which the Supreme Court recently ordered the removal of 48,000 jhuggies along 140 kilometers of railway track around Delhi within three months.

The interveners appealed to the Court demanding the resettlement of more than 2 lakh residents of the 48,000 juggis before being evicted.

On August 31, the Supreme Court while hearing the matter of MC Mehta V. Union of India ordered the removal of 48,000 jhuggies (shanties) along 140 kilometres of railway track around Delhi due to issues of environmental degradation, accumulation of plastic waste, etc.

The bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari had also ordered "Any violation on any ground whatsoever shall be treated as contempt of the order passed by this Court as there is already huge unjustified delay in making the compliance of the order."

The IA filed by Maken states that the slum dwellers were never made party in the case, and that the order passed was in violation of the Supreme Court's Olga Tellis verdict. It states:

"Jhuggi dwellers were not parties in the present Writ Petition before this Hon’ble Court, either directly or in representative capacity, their stance and the relevant documents could not be brought before this Hon’ble Court for its kind consideration. Olga Tellis & Ors. vs Bombay Municipal Corporation 1986 AIR (SC) 180, wherein this Hon’ble Court has held that there can be no justification for denying an opportunity of hearing to slum dwellers living on pavements/ public properties."

The IA states that the order passed on August 31 was "inhuman and against public policy" as lakhs of children, women and elderly persons who were currently residing in the large slum clusters alongside the railway tracks will be homeless.

August 31 order also states that “no Court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments in the area in question. In case any interim order is granted with respect to encroachments, which have been made along with railway tracks, that shall not be effective."

The application file by Maken also points out that the order preventing other courts from granting stay on the removal of the jhuggis amounted to grave obstruction to the right to access to justice.

"That a direction of the Apex Court restricting the Fundamental Right to Access to Justice is not only a grave violation of Article 14 and 21 as the Jhuggi dwellers cannot be treated as secondary citizens to deny them the remedies available under law." the IA states.

The applicants have also moved a letter of urgency before Chief Justice of India SA Bobde stating that railway authorities have already begun removal of the jhuggis and have ‘issued demolition notices’ in various slums in Delhi.

The letter states that residents living in those jhuggis will be homeless amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Plea also states that Government of NCT of Delhi had also formulated the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, which categorically provides for the rehabilitation of JJ Bastis before their demolition.

However, the agencies deliberately did not inform this Court about the said policy, even though the policy provides that no JJ Basti will be demolished without providing alternate housing to the inhabitants.

"Residents of the jhuggis cannot be considered ‘Secondary Citizens’ and the removal of the jhuggis will render these residents homeless thereby violating their human rights as well as the Fundamental Rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of India." the IA states.

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