The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Monday that no action would be taken to demolish 48,000 slum clusters situated within safety zones along rail tracks in Delhi immediately.
Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said consultations were on among the Railways, the Delhi government and the Union Ministry of Urban Development to reach a solution, taking into consideration the fact that any immediate move would cause the displacement of over two lakh families living in these clusters amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The court scheduled the case for hearing after a month.
The dispute is based on an order by the Supreme Court itself. On August 31, a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, who is now retired, ordered the removal of the clusters within three months along with garbage piled up near the rail tracks. The court said no interference would be brooked from politicians or otherwise against the order. Besides, it had said any order of stay by any court would be deemed ineffective.
It is in this background that Congress leader Ajay Maken and several residents from these clusters urgently approached the court challenging the blanket order of destruction of their homes passed without even hearing them first.
Mr. Maken called the August 31 order a “devastating” one.
The former Union Minister and the residents both informed the court that the Ministry of Railways, the Delhi government and local authorities had already initiated the process of identification and removal of ‘jhuggies’ and had issued demolition notices in various slums in Delhi.
“They have circumvented the established procedure by law with respect to rehabilitation prior to demolition as under the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy of 2015,” Mr. Maken submitted in court through his lawyer, advocate Nitin Saluja.
He said a slum could not be demolished and its people could not be evicted without first making provision for their rehabilitation.
“Slum dwellers have a fundamental right to the city. They are an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the town… If the demolition of slums is carried out amidst the current pandemic, more than 2,50,000 persons will be forced to move around the city in search for shelter and livelihood,” Mr. Maken said.