"Ground reality far from desirable": Delhi High Court on Govt's efforts to rehabilitate jhuggi dwellers

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Court while reviewing the situation of rehabilitation of jhuggi dwellers observed that the ground reality was far from desirable.

The Delhi High Court on Friday while reviewing the situation of jhuggi dwellers observed that though the Delhi Government had sought to make efforts to rehabilitate jhuggi dwellers ‘on paper’ in terms of the Delhi Slum and Rehabilitation Policy, 2015, the ground reality was ‘far from desirable’.

The division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad was hearing a plea filed by Shewasharam, a trust established for maintaining a Shiv Temple and a gaushala. The trust was aggrieved by a Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board order asking the occupants to vacate the premises.

The trust had moved the high court seeking quashing of the eviction note and direction to prohibit the Delhi Government and DUSIB from carrying out demolition and evacuation procedures in the said premises.

In an order dated 10 February, a single judge bench determined that the properties in question did not fall within the jhuggi cluster designated by the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015.

It was ruled that the residents of the property were not entitled to protection from demolition and that "no orders were necessary" because the notice provided alternative housing. It was further ordered that the respondents will provide an alternative cow shelter within a week and the alternative cow shelter would be exempt from the three-month maximum stay period.

It was argued before the division bench that because the location where cow shelter is located was close to a designated cluster area, the appellant trust was also eligible for protection under the 2015 policy.

On the other side, the Delhi government defended the challenged notice by arguing that the location of the property does not fall within any of the 2015 policy's declared clusters. Therefore, it was argued that the property's demolition could not be halted.

While refusing to interfere with the decision of the single judge bench of the high court over the eviction of the gaushala on Bhairon Marg, the division bench stated that the Delhi government had made attempts on paper to rehabilitate jhuggi residents, but the ground reality was far from acceptable.

“It appears that in case a jhuggi was not notified under the Act, the same did not exist before 01.01.2006, and hence, individuals residing at such jhuggis cannot claim in-situ rehabilitation. The statement that the subject premises are near a notified cluster by itself is not sufficient to attract the DUSIB Policy, 2015 for the purpose of rehabilitation,” the high court observed.

The court noted that the appellant trust did not submit any evidence contradicting the argument that jhuggis did not exist on the property prior to January 1, 2006. In addition, it was stated that, as per the 2015 policy, alternative accommodation had already been supplied to the impacted persons.

Case Title: Keshaw Sanyasi Gawo Shewasharam vs. Govt of NCT & Anr.