New Delhi Sept 9 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today has issued notice in a plea filed by a Gujarat based non-profit organisation against ‘In Situ’ rehabilitation of slum dwellers on the pond/waste land so notified by the Irrigation Department of State of Gujarat under Section 5 of the Bombay Irrigation Act, 1879, alleging its contrary to the law laid down by Apex Court.
A division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M Sundresh has issued notice in a plea filed by “Paryavaran Mitra” against allocating a water body into land for housing and developing encroachments under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in Gujarat. The petitioner has challenged an order dated July 16, 2019, passed by the Gujarat High Court which in turn had dismissed an appeal filed by one Jignesh Maheshbhai Pandya alleging the same.
During the hearing today learned senior counsel for petitioner, Sanjay Hegde submitted that the affidavit has been filed by him and none responded to the affidavit. He sought the permission to file the SLP.
The learned Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the State of Gujarat and other respondents are directed by the Court to file their affidavit within 4 weeks and rejoinder in 2 weeks explaining that “water body” may be used for other purpose specially rehabilitation.
Water body must remain a Water Body; Opined the Apex Court
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul also commented that “water body” must remain water body.
The court granted permission to the petitioners to file an SLP.
The Gujarat High Court had allowed the allocation of a land consisting a water body for rehabilitation and redevelopment of a slum area At Sahakarnagar, Opp. Mukti Nagar Society, Tandalja Road, Tandalja in Revenue Survey No. 444, T.P. No 22, F.P. No. 234 at Vadodara.
The Allocation of water body admeasuring 48,034 sqmt of land identified at village Tandalja, Taluka Vadodara, for development under government’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. The High Court had noted that present case is a glaring case of thousands of hutment dwellers, residing in about 1457 hutment dwelling units and occupying pond/waste land for around four decades. The dwellers came to be displaced by demolishing their huts and on an assurance given by the respondent no 2/ Vadodara Municipal Corporation for ‘In Situ’ rehabilitation for which contract was given to respondent no 4 through a public notice based on the policy of Public Private Partnership (PPP).
The Contract for said rehabilitation was given out to Cube Construction Engineering Limited through public notice based on the policy of Public Private Partnership and as a part of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna and Gujarat Slum Areas Act, 1973.
The area which was selected for carrying on the said development was a land measuring 48,034 sqmt at village Tandalja, Taluka Vadodara.
The said area is notified as lake in village vide notification by Department of Narmada and water resources , Water Supply and Kalpasar Department, Sachivalaya, Government of Gujarat the said lake was notified as “Kharabo Talavdi”.
The present plea by “Paryavaran Mitra” raised two important questions
Whether any water bodies can be alienated and used by state for any other purpose other than preservation even if the same involves rehabilitation of slum dweller?
Whether occupancy rights or any kind of settlement right can be granted by state in respect of area declared as water body?
The petition has been filed by Mahesh Pandya of Paryavaran Mitra, a Gujarat based NGO involved in protection of environment and working on sustainable developments to preserves the lakes and water bodies in state of Gujarat.
The Supreme Court vide it’s order dated 16/12/2019, had noted that ‘Paryavaran Mitra’ was not a party before the High Court and had directed it to file an affidavit so as to how he came into the picture. The Court had also directed the respondents to file a reply to the said affidavit. Following which the applicant/petitioner had filed an affidavit in Jan 2020. The Court had also directed the parties to submit note in two pages each limited to aspect as to the description of Revenue Survey No 444.
The affidavit filed by the petitioner stated that the respondents can relocate the encroachers under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana on any othrt land Including land declared surplus under the erstwhile urban land ceiling and regulation act 1976 but the respondent authorities cannot create a natural lake/water bodies such other land in place of which has already been notified as a lake/water body.
Gujarat High Court’s Findings
The High Court had noted, “As it is discernible from the revenue records, out of the aforesaid land admeasuring 48,259 sq. mtrs in the Final Plot No. 234 only 4200 sq. mtrs is a water body/indented portion as is so described in the revenue records also as “Kharabo Talavdi – Waste Land – Water body – Tank – Proamboke”. Revenue records reveal a pit of 4200 sq. mtrs which both the State and the Corporation have gone on record to assure that the same will be rejuvenated, beautified and preserved as a lake/water body. The Court has to preserve the delicate balance between the two objectives of sustainable development and ecology.”
“As far as the existing area of water body of 4200 sq. mtrs is concerned the Corporation and the State authorities have on affidavit assured this Court of rejuvenating and beautifying the same. We, therefore, need to strike a balance in our care of the environment in juxtaposition with sustainable development. The hutment dwellers who have moved out to make way for construction of suitable housing under the Awas Yojana also deserve to be given their share in the economy of sustainability,” it said.
The Court further stated that, “keeping the aforesaid principles in view, we do not see any reason to stall the project of rehabilitation and redevelopment of the slum area at Sahakarnagar, Opp. Mukti Nagar Society, Tandalja Road, Tandalja in Revenue Survey No. 444, T.P. No. 22, F.P. No. 234 at Vadodara.”/ILNS/KR/SNG