The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Haryana government three more weeks to finalise the rehabilitation policy for slum dwellers in Faridabad’s Khori village so that the policy is in place when the authorities complete the ongoing demolition of nearly 6,600 unauthorised houses built on 150 acres of Aravali forest land before August 23.
The Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF), the agency carrying out the demolition, told the top court that nearly 80% of the targeted demolition was complete and the corporation will be able to stick to the August 23 deadline set by the judges at the previous hearing on July 23.
The corporation, represented by senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj, told the bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari that MCF finalised the draft rehabilitation scheme but later received some suggestions from people. “The corporation responded to these suggestions and forwarded it to the state government. The policy is yet to be finalised,” Bhardwaj said.
Lawyer Ruchi Kohli, appearing for the Haryana government, said it would need three weeks to invite objections and finalise the draft housing plan for the slum dwellers.
The bench, which posted the case for hearing on August 25, asked MCF to submit its final status report on the demolition and directed the finalisation of the rehabilitation policy before the hearing.
MCF started the demolition of structures in April this year following the Supreme Court orders to clear encroachments from Aravali forest land in February 2020.
On June 3, the bench gave MCF six weeks to complete the demolition.
The corporation wasn’t able to complete the exercise within this deadline and at a hearing on July 23, was given time till August 23 to complete the demolition.
While granting this request, the Supreme Court bench also responded to complaints by some residents of the village that the administration was acting swiftly against the poor but has spared the rich who built farmhouses and commercial structures.
MCF was ordered to make sure all encroachments were removed. “Our direction to remove all structures on forest land applies to all structures without any exception,” the bench emphasised.
On Tuesday, owners of some properties who rent out their premises for marriage functions also approached the court, saying MCF sent them notices for erecting boundary walls on forest land.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for these persons told the court that they were not on forest land and their business is protected by orders passed by the Supreme Court in a pending case filed in 2013.
The bench said: “If the MCF is of the firm opinion that the structure pertains to forest land, they will be free to proceed in terms of our order and demolish it. If it is not on forest land, then do not carry out any action till Friday.” The bench allowed the applicants to approach the authorities concerned on Wednesday with proof that the land is not forest land and directed the application to be listed on Friday along with the 2013 case files by which the applicants were protected.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the court also heard complaints from Khori village occupants that people evicted by the corporation were not being provided temporary shelter or food. Senior lawyer Sanjay Parikh, appearing for one set of occupants, said the villagers were told to go to the nearby Radhasoami Satsang ashram which has a capacity to accommodate 50 persons but has close to a lakh people.
He was supported by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for another set of dwellers.
The bench said only those who are eligible as per the new policy will be rehabilitated. “For temporary shelter, we have permitted you to approach the commissioner.” In response, the corporation said food, medical support, ambulances, trucks for transportation, and temporary shelter at the nearby premises of Radhaaoami Satsang was being provided.
The court asked the corporation to depute a nodal officer at the Radhasoami premises so that the Khori dwellers do not have to travel all the way to meet the commissioner. In addition, the bench allowed grievances to be made through email and asked MCF to provide the necessary details.
The status report to be filed by the Corporation on the next date shall mention details of representations received and the outcome achieved, the court said.