No demolition of slums next to railway tracks till Urban Affairs Ministry takes a decision, Centre tells SC

Submission was made in a petition filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken, who sought to recall order passed by SC directing removal of nearly 48,000 slum dwellings around railway tracks in Delhi

Supreme Court of India (File photo)
Supreme Court of India (File photo)

NH Web Desk

The Central Government on Monday informed the Supreme Court that there will not be immediate removal of the slums near the railway track in Delhi, in furtherance of the August 31 order of the apex court, legal news website has reported.

The Solicitor General told a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India that there won't be a removal of jhuggis near rail tracks until the Railways in consultation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs discuss and find a solution within 4 weeks.

The submission was made in a petition filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken, who sought to recall the order passed by the Supreme Court on August 31, directing the removal of nearly 48,000 slum dwellings around the 140-kilometer length of railway tracks in New Delhi within three months.

While ordering so, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra (since retired), B R Gavai and Krishna Murari further directed that no court should grant any stay on the removal of the slums.

"The encroachments which are there in the safety zones should be removed within a period of three months and no interference, political or otherwise, should be there and no court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments in the area in question," the top court had ordered.

The order was passed in the M C Mehta case, in which the apex court had been passing a slew of directions from time to time since 1985 in issues related to pollution in and around Delhi.

The bench passed the direction after the Railways stated in the affidavit filed before the court that there is a "predominant presence" of jhuggies in Delhi along with 140 km route length of track in the region of NCT of Delhi. The Railways stated that out of this, about 70 km route length of track is affected by large jhuggie jhopri clusters existing in close vicinity of the tracks. These clusters sum up to a total of about 48000 jhuggies in the region adjacent to Railway tracks, the court was told.

The Railways further stated that following the directions passed by the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, in October 2018, a Special Task Force for removal of encroachments from the Railway Property has already been constituted.

The Railways filed the affidavit in response to the report submitted by the Environment Pollution (Protection and Control) Authority stating that the Railways was not in compliance with the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.

The court was further told by the Railways that there was "political intervention" which comes in the way of the removal of encroachments.

Following the SC order, Ajay Maken - who had earlier filed a PIL in the Delhi HC seeking rehabilitation of slum dwellers - moved the application seeking the recall of the directions to evict the slum dwellers.

The 2-time MP pointed out that the order was passed in a matter (MC Mehta) where the affected slum dwellers were neither party to the case, nor were they represented in any capacity. Therefore, he added, the apex court passed orders without having considered their grievances or submissions at all.

Emphasizing that close to 2.4 lakh people will be rendered homeless when this order is given effect, by the Railway Ministry's own admission, the petitioner pleads that doing so without hearing them would be "one of the gravest tragedy and non-observance of principles of natural justice."

Asserting that the top court heard the Government, which wanted slums to be demolished, and "completely ignored the affected/ vulnerable population" by denying them an opportunity to be heard, the petition urges that there "cannot be a departure from the rule of Audi Altrem Partem, especially when the jhuggi dwellers have been living in the shanties for 30-40 years."

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