New Delhi Sept 14(ILNS): The Supreme Court today heard a plea seeking rehabilitation for the Jhuggi dwellers who were evicted after forest areas were cleared by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad at Khori Gaon in Haryana.
The bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, and Justice CT Ravikumar observed in its order that the Faridabad Municipal corporation has in principle agreed to roll out a scheme for allotment of premises/houses in view of rehabilitation of eligible applicants.
The bench also observed that “The corporation upon receiving of applications along with documents establishing eligibility of accommodation, provisional allotment letter to be issued after due scrutiny. But such a provisional letter to state such allotment is temporary and subject to final adjudication and final draw of lots and scrutiny of all participants.”
The bench also directed that “The applicant concerned and his family members to give an undertaking to the corporation that as and when called upon to vacate in the event of failing to establish eligibility criteria or remedy of appeal shall vacate in two weeks.”
The Counsel of the Faridabad Municipal Corporation assured the bench that after provisional allotment if any repair and maintenance to make it habitable is required the same shall be carried on by it preferably within 10 days of the intimation given by the applicant to the concerned officials.
To which the bench observed that, “When such repair work is carried on safety and security of the residents should be kept in mind.”
The bench also observed that “The rent of Rs 2,000 offered to the concerned applicant shall stand discontinued after provisional accommodation is granted.”
The above direction came when the Faridabad Municipal Corporation informed the Supreme Court that it will make all efforts to complete the process of rehabilitation with respect to the Khori Gaon demolitions by April 30, 2022, including handing over the possession of the flats to eligible applicants.
On September 6, The Supreme Court directed the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to identify a suitable timeline for rehabilitation of people from Khori Gaon. The Court suggested the method that the provisional allotment be given in a week from the submission of application and if the eligibility is found suspect thereafter, the person may be evicted.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner in Sarina Sarkar & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Ors, submitted that everything about rehabilitation submitted by the government was false and requested the Supreme Court to appoint a commissioner.
The Court asked him about the urgent concerns. Gonsalves submitted that food, water, accommodation, all are found wanting in the area. He took the court through the report filed in Sarina Sarkar about the inadequacies in the facilities. The Court remarked that it was a wider issue and that for immediate relief, the Counsel should point out urgent things.
Gonsalves tried to impress upon the Court that it was all a connected issue. He submitted that the temporary shelter was a makeshift hall that could barely fit 150 people. He submitted that there is no privacy and that the young women do not feel comfortable, further that there was no space in tents. In addition, the persons were forced to leave after 2-3 days. He submitted that half the space is occupied by the volunteers of the Radhaswamy Satsang Ashram.
Gonsalves submitted that the authorities look at the people with suspicion and demand an electricity bill for identification. The evicted persons have an Aadhaar card and yet could not get facilities.
He also submitted that drinking water and electricity are not available. Gonsalves referred to the photos in the report. The Court asked him when were these photos taken and if the position was the same. He replied that they were from August 6 and nothing has changed as his people had visited the site 2-3 days ago also.
Gonsalves said, there was no drinking water and that they were dependent upon rainwater. Further they were given one meal a day and asked to leave thereafter. He also submitted that there was constant police presence and the police was scaring away those seeking shelter.
Gonsalves referred to persons living atop debris. The Court pointed out that the debris is of demolished buildings and that the persons are not moving. In the backdrop of the Court saying that the issues were getting mixed up, the Court said to Gonsalves that he should understand what the court was saying. In a heated moment, the Senior Advocate replied, “You understand what I am saying.” Justice Khanwilkar promptly replied, “You want to proceed like that?”
Gondavalas thereafter said that he did not, but the Court should consider what the persons are supposed to do in the absence of shelter.
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari tried to moderate the tension by stating that there was no point in debating the same thing again. He said that the word ‘temporary’ in itself means something that is not permanent and that it would be for immediate requirement. He clarified that for rehabilitation, the Corporation had asked for administrative sanction. He said that the administration should be allowed to do its work.
The Court also said, “You interview a few persons, this report leads us where? Let us look at temporary things from a temporary perspective.”
Gonsalves said, they needed food, water, shelter, electricity and toilets on a temporary basis, and that they have Aadhaar cards for identity.
Sanjay Parekh, appearing for the petitioners in Rekha & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., supported the submissions of Gonsalves on the inadequacies and submitted that he prays for an independent monitoring mechanism. He submitted that till they get shelter, they should be allowed to stay and that there were at least 1 lakh people who had been displaced, Where would people go after 2-3 days.
The Municipal Corporation of Faridabad counsel submitted that they had been providing facilities since August 23 and that the completion certificate was of that date. He further submitted that the Indian Red Cross Society was adjacent to the temporary shelter and was providing medical facilities.
Only those who are eligible can avail the facilities, and that it was natural that they would ask for proof. He submitted that Gonsalves was unfair in painting the Corporation black.
He also submitted that the food is freshly cooked and hygienic, and that Rs 2000 per month was being provided to the families.
The Court asked him how early can the allotment for rehabilitation in EWS flats could be done? Bharadwaj submitted that the allotment depends on eligibility and that the process may take 8-10 weeks. He further said that there may be need for some retrofitting in shelters.
Justice Khanwilkar said that the preliminary scrutiny can be done in a week and the provisional allotment done based on that subject to verification. The person can be evicted after that.
Mathew J. Nedumpara, appearing for intervenors tried to persuade the court in terms of the ‘rights of those evicted’. He tried to submit before the court arguments based on the law of prescription and limitation.
The Court first asked him what was his locus to address the Court. Nedumpara was unable to point out the description of the intervenors, and replied, “The whole issue is if I have a right, law will provide for remedy.” Despite being asked on locus standi, the Counsel proceeded to make submission that due process was not followed.
The Bench was visibly angry. Nedumpara said that a PIL was filed that should have been withdrawn. He submitted that the order of demolition was passed in the PIL and therefore he has been evicted. The Bench said, “We will record your submission and reject your contention.” Nedumpara said that he was only speaking for the poor and that he had joined the legal profession to help the society.
He submitted that the entire proceedings were the result of the PIL and that his grievance was that the municipality had thrown him out despite him having rights. He made a comparison with the district of Idduki in Kerala to state that the entire district is in the forest. He submitted that the orders passed in the PIL of Sarina Sarkar should be reexamined. He stated that “I believe Your Lordships got it wrong. Your Lordships need to take corrective action.”
Justice Maheshwari asked the Counsel two questions. The first was where had it been stated in his application that he was in occupation prior to 2003. “Can you answer it straight?”
Justice Maheshwari, pointed out that Nedumpara had made a statement that even if he was a trespasser he could not be thrown out without the due process of law. Justice Maheshwari said that if that would be the case then reliance would be placed on the principles of Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act, and said “Do we not know that Section 6 cant be filed against the government?”
The Court in its order said, that Nedumpara “submits that the directions of this Court are flawed and nullity. We place this submission on record only to be rejected. Nedumpara is unmindful of previous orders, the court remarked.”/ILNS/AV/SNG