NGT Khori Gaon: Haryana statements on rehabilitation of slum-dwellers false,...

Khori Gaon: Haryana statements on rehabilitation of slum-dwellers false, says their advocate

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New Delhi Aug 27(ILNS): The Supreme Court today was informed by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves that the statements made (with regard to rehabilitation) by the State of Haryana were “completely false and false to their knowledge.”

A bench comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari was hearing the matter and directed that this matter and all connected matters be listed on September 6 as per the previous order dated August 23.

The Court that the matter was listed today on the point of rehabilitation scheme that was to be finalised by the State of Haryana.

Colin Gonsalves, Sr. Adv appearing for the petitioner in Sarina Sarkar and Ors. v. State of Haryana and Ors. submitted before the Court that he had filed an application that encloses a report showing that the statements made (with regard to rehabilitation) by the State of Haryana were “completely false and false to their knowledge.” He submitted this based on an interview with people and site visits. He further submitted that the rehabilitation plan was to be finalised by 31st of July. 

Arun Bharadwaj, AAG for the State of Haryana, thereafter submitted that the rehabilitation plan has been finalised and a copy was made available to him last night and that the suggestions of Gonsalves were also taken into consideration. 

The Bench then directed that a response would be filed by the State and the Corporation before September 3 and that the matter was to be listed on September 6. 

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh thereafter submitted that in the IA filed in Rekha and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors., has given a report based on a visit by Manju Menon, a research scholar and Srishti Agnihotri, Adv. which also disproved the statements of the State of Haryana. He submitted that it was a serious issue. 

The IA filed by Srishti Agnihotri in Rekha and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors is an application for permission to file additional facs and documents. It states that the committee of Forest Department of the State of Haryana which was set up by NGT to identify forest violations in the cases of Sonya Ghosh v. the State of Haryana & Ors. and Haryana Welfare Society v. Union of India & Ors. had found the Radha Swami Satsang to be in violation of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900. 

Another IA has been filed in the aforesaid matter praying for urgent directions on the ground that the petitioners “continue to live in extreme poverty and without a roof over their heads, while they and their families have been reduced to a bare animal existence.”

It requests the Supreme Court to make provisions for the rehabilitation and shelter process to be subject to monitoring by an independent committee appointed by this Hon’ble Court. The thrust of the argument is that the facilities in the temporary shelter provided at the Radha Swami Satsang are woefully inadequate. Further, that the Khori Gaon residents also face difficulties while searching for houses on rent and also have lost their jobs. The Rent prices have doubled or tripled and there is no stability for stay.

The Bench stated that they were not trivializing any issue but the state would have to respond and made similar directions. The Court then asked the Ld. AAG for Haryana to file a common reply indicating the IAs for which they are replying instead of separate reply for each IA. 

Mr. Parikh thereafter brought attention if the Court that the Radha Saomi Satsang Bhawan site which was a proposed rehabilitation site was on forest land. He submitted that the Court had directed any unauthorized structure to be demolished and that the status of the structure was not clear as per records and the same may be demolished. 

The Court said that they were not inclined to do an investigation first and that the Municipal Corporation was to complete its exercise first. It may so happen that the Corporation does not take action in that case. 

Mr. Parikh also submitted that in a meeting with Mr. Bharadwaj, the former had conceded that it was on forest land whereas the Commissioner who was also present said that he did not know whether or not it was on forest land. 

Mr. Mohit Paul, AOR thereafter requested the Court to direct that all the copies be served on the rest of the parties as directed in the order dated 3rd August. The Bench was directed accordingly. He also made a housekeeping request as regards the “mute” and “unmute” feature stating that the counsels should be allowed to unmute on their own as they are unable to make submissions. The Bench said that they will take it into consideration. 

As the Bench was about to rise, Mr. Mathews J. Nedumpara, Adv. tried to submit a contrarian view and urged the Court to listen. He stated that in this court “we have the least democracy as we are not able to speak”. His submission was that the Court had ordered the demolition of all structures, to which the Court said that they had directed the demolition of all “unauthorized” structures. He submitted that the law of prescription and limitation apply to forest land also. However, the Bench had risen before he could conclude. 

Background:

The matter relates to the demolition of all unauthorized structures in the Aravali area in Haryana were owing to the demolition many persons had also been displaced. 

The Ld. Solicitor General on that August 6 had sought for a time of ten days to comply with the order dated August 3, 2021, whereby the Hon’ble Court directed the parties who have been served notice of demolition to make representation before the competent authority who shall order demolition only on those structures standing on forested land. Regarding demolition of structures, the Court had directed the Ld. AAG for Haryana to not take action if such premises are not on forest land and that the applicants should make representation before the appropriate authority which shall be considered appropriately.

Earlier, vide order dated August 23, 2021, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had observed that the Municipal Corporation, Faridabad was expected to complete the removal of all unauthorized structures standing on forest land before August 23 and therefore listed the matter on 25th August prior to which the Commissioner was directed to submit a status report which shall also include the representations made by persons who seek rehabilitation. 

It was submitted on behalf of the state that the rehabilitation policy (Policy for rehabilitation of Khori Jhuggi Dwellers) is in the stage of finalization and has been forwarded to the state government for approval. Suggestions and objections were considered, and the state needs 2-3 weeks’ time to finalize the policy. 

Earlier on August 23, the Supreme Court deferred the matter by 2 weeks as prayed for in the letter circulated by the Solicitor General of India. The Ld. SG has sought time for considering the representations made to the Corporation against demolition. In the meantime, the Court observed that the Corporation has to proceed with the demolition of unauthorized structures. The matter was directed to be next listed on the 6th of September. 

Status Report filed by Municipal Corporation of Faridabad

In the main matter, Municipal Corporation Faridabad v. Khori Gaon Residents Welfare Association (Regd.) through its President the compliance report has been filed by way of affidavit of Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Faridabad. It states that the direction passed in Sarina Sarkar & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Ors. on 7th July 2021 was that all essential measured to remove encroachments would be taken and a compliance report would be submitted not later than six weeks. The time as extended vide order dated 23rd July 2021passed in the main matter. 

It submits that the Corporation has taken possession of approximately 150 acres of land after demolition. Further, that the Corporation has allowed a lot of time to the illegal occupants to take away their materials, and presently on (23rd August) the process was undergoing. 

The status report submits that the Corporation had taken a humanitarian approach while removing the persons residing in the unauthorized structures and following all the mandatory COVID protocols. They had also arranged for a temporary shelter, food, medicines, toilets, etc. at Radha Saomi Satsang Bhawan adjacent to the 150 acres of land belonging to the Corporation which was made encroachment free and an extended office of the Municipal Corporation from 16th July onwards. The Corporation has also stated that it is arranging cooked food which is being served on a regular basis from 16th July 2021 onwards. 

It is also placed on record that the applications received will be disposed of off in terms of the “Housing Plan for the Rehabilitation of Khori (Lakkarpur revenue Estate) Jhuggi Dwellers sitting on land owned by Municipal Corporation Faridabad which was sent to the Government on 20th August 2021 after incorporating the amendments suggested by the Ld. Advocate General Haryana. 

In furtherance of the Supreme Court’s order, the Compliance report also mentions that the dedicated email id khoricomplaints@gmail.com has been created and wide publicity has bene given along with the appointment of the Joint Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Faridabad, NIT Zone, Faridabad as the Nodal Officer. The Report also mentioned that the Corporation is taking continuously taking actions against violations in the Forest Land. 

The affidavit also seeks an additional time of four weeks to completely comply with the directions of the Supreme Court./ILNS/KR/SNG

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