Delhi High Court issues orders mandating Daily Food Provision to Families Living in Delhi Homeless Shelter
23rd April 2013, New Delhi – (PRESS RELEASE) – The High Court of Delhi issued orders in the individual petition Priya Kale vs. Government of Delhi and Ors., (W.P. (C) 641 of 2013) reinforcing the interim order it had previously issued to the Respondents to provide Motia Khan shelter home residents with three meals a day. On 6th January 2013, Priya Kale’s two-month-old daughter, Prithi, died likely due to the shelter home’s inadequate living conditions and Prithi’s malnourishment. Motia Khan first opened in 2011 and today remains unfit for habitation. The shelter lacks enough toilet facilities for its 296 permanent residents; sex segregated bathing areas; and a kitchen for resident use. It operates under very unhygienic conditions, is pest-ridden, and is home to several street dogs. The shelter also lacks any semblance of security or privacy and residents are forced to live 10-15 families to a single room. Women and children of Motia Khan, particularly pregnant and lactating women, are arguably the most affected by the Motia Khan’s terrible living conditions and insufficient services.
A few weeks after her daughter’s passing, Priya Kale, with the assistance of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), brought this petition before the Delhi High Court seeking improve the Motia Khan and to prevent the untimely deaths of others in her situation. On 1st February 2013, the Hon’ble High Court issued interim orders to the Respondents mandating that they provide Motia Khan and two other single-women shelters for pregnant and lactating women in Delhi with geysers, heaters, maternal medical services, and three meals a day. The Hon’ble High Court also requested the Respondents to undertake and present before the Court a status reports on Motia Khan and the other two shelters for pregnant and lactating women. Although the Respondents complied with these orders, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which runs Motia Khan, filed a motion to modify the Hon’ble Courts order, requesting that the order to provide food be dropped due to its “onerous” nature. In a previous filing, DUSIB had also made a submission that providing Motia Khan residents with three square meals per day would make them “lazy” and would be a drain on society. DUSIB’s motion to modify also requested that the eight pregnant women currently living at Motia Khan be moved to the homes for single and destitute pregnant and lactating women at Jahangir Puri or Sarai Rohilla.
On 16th April, the Hon’ble Justice Rajiv Shakdher considered the Respondent’s motion to modify the Court’s interim orders and requested the Respondents to submit an affidavit stating the monthly costs necessary to run Motia Khan satisfactorily. Justice Shakdher also chose not to move the eight pregnant women living at Motia Khan to either of the two shelter homes for single women after HRLN advocate Doma Bhutia argued that moving them would isolate them from their husbands and older children. Ultimately, Justice Shakdher refused to modify the Hon’ble Court’s interim orders, stating that three meals a day must be provided to each shelter inhabitant until the case is next listed on 16th September 2013.
The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is a collective of lawyers and social activists dedicated to using the legal system to advance human rights in India and the sub-continent. Visit hrln.org to learn more.
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Sarita Barpanda; firstname.lastname@example.org
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