Jahangirpuri demolition: Juice shop owner Ganesh Kumar Gupta approaches Supreme Court for compensation
Gupta’s petition highlighted that the recent demolition drive conducted by the NDMC is communally motivated as the municipal corporation currently has 3,000 pending cases of encroachment
Ganesh Kumar Gupta, whose juice shop was bulldozed on Wednesday, April 20, in the anti-encroachment drive by North Delhi Municipal Corporation officials in northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, has approached the Supreme Court seeking compensation for the demolition.
He has sought compensation for his loss from the North MCD as well as to promote and vindicate public interest which demands that violations of constitutional or legal rights of large numbers of people who are poor, ignorant or in a socially or economically disadvantaged position should not go unnoticed and unaddressed, said his petition.
Gupta’s petition highlighted that the recent demolition drive conducted by the NDMC is communally motivated by malice as the municipal corporation currently has 3,000 pending cases of encroachment, and has selectively chosen to conduct its demolition exercise in Jahangirpuri in undue haste, giving a complete go by to mandatory statutory provisions.
His petition moved before the court is against the mala fide power exercised by NDMC. The petitioner stated that the shop was allotted by DDA in year 1977-78 and he has since then had been regularly paying the necessary fees and taxes. Gupta stated that on the day of demolition he tried to show all the documents to the authorities but they paid no attention to his request and his shop was razed. He even tried to inform them about the Supreme Court’s order to stay the demolition, but they refused to listen.
The petition states that the demolition drive was completely contrary to the provisions of law, Sections 343, 347B and 368 of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi Act, 1957. Both the clauses to Section 343, and Section 368 of the Act state that an opportunity has to be provided to the affected person to show cause as to why a demolition order should not be made.
Section 343 of the Act states that where the erection of any building or execution of any work has been commenced, or is being carried on, or has been completed without or contrary to the sanction, the Commissioner may make an order directing that such erection or work shall be demolished by the person at whose instance the erection or work has been commenced or is being carried on or has been completed, within such period (not being less than five days and more than fifteen days from the date on which a copy of the order of demolition with a brief statement of the reasons has been delivered to that person).
Section 347 B states that no person shall, without the written permission of the Commissioner, change or allow the change of the use of any land or building. Section 368 addresses the power of Commissioner to order demolition of buildings unfit for human habitation and in such cases 30 days notice has to be given.
In complete contravention these provisions of the Act, the NDMC did not issue a show-cause notice to the affected residents before commencing its demolition exercise on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Additionally, during the demolition drive the NDMC also removed the stalls of certain street vendors in contravention of the Street Vendor (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, which affords street vendors protection from eviction and relocation.
The petition also highlighted that even if the structures in question were unauthorised, the NDMC’s demolition drive was illegal in light of the provisions of the Delhi Special Provisions Amendment Act, 2020, under which protection from demolition has been accorded to unauthorised structures built before 2014 until December 31, 2023.
The petition takes a special note that the “instant drive was well televised and a certain news anchor travelled in a bulldozer that was being used for demolition making mockery of the demolition exercise”. The demolition drive came just a few days after violence broke out in Jahangirpuri during a Hanuman Jayanti procession on Saturday, April 16.
Gupta’s petition added that there also been a marked rise in incidents of state-sponsored targeting of the poor and minorities by using illegal demolition drives against them as seen in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh and Roorkee, Uttarakhand. A number of ministers and political functionaries have made brazen statements advocating such acts and especially threatened minority groups with the destruction of their homes and commercial properties in case of riots.
The right to housing/shelter is a fundamental right as has been held by the Supreme Court on numerous occasions and forms an integral part of the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. “The bulldozing of the houses by the NDMC amounts to forced eviction and arbitrary interference with an individual’s home, thus a breach of Article 11.1 of the ICESCR. This right of the citizens evidently cannot be taken away or infringed upon without following the due process of law.”
Article 11.1 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states that the countries which are party to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. India signed and ratified the covenant in 1979 when Morarji Desai was the Indian Prime Minister.