In historic judgment, Delhi HC orders relocation of slum dwellers with guarantee to quality of life
Mukandi Lal & Others V. Municipal Corporation of Delhi & Others Writ Petition (Civil) 9246 of 2009 HRLN was approached by the head of a community called "Gadia Lohar" which is a nomadic and scheduled tribe often referred as "Khanabdosh" (wanderers or Gypsies) who migrated from Rajasthan to Delhi in 1965 and have been living since then in jhuggis (slums) built near a locality called Prem Nagar (also known as Gadia Lohar Basti) in Delhi. Their huts (18 in number) were demolished on 12.01.2009 without providing any rehabilitation. Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was not taking any step to rehabilitate these families in spite of having passed a resolution dated 12.02.09, which required the rehabilitation of the Gadia Lohar tribe. As a consequence, these families were spending their days and nights under open sky with all their children and women having a miserable life being shelter less. One public-spirited person from nearby locality who saw these people undergoing immense suffering, exploitation and harassment brought this issue to the notice of HRLN. Two lawyers from HRLN Jayshree Satpute and Anant Kumar Asthana made a field visit to the demolition site and witnessed that these people have not left the place in spite of their huts been completely razed to ground, their small road side vending business shut down , children and women lying on the ruins of their huts and found local police harassing these people in order to force them to completely vacate the place. HRLN team approached the local police station and got such police harassment stopped. Further on 19.05.09 HRLN lawyer Jayshree Satpute filed a Writ Petition on behalf of these slum dwellers, seeking intervention of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in achieving appropriate rehabilitation for these slum dwellers. Petitioners sought their rehabilitation at a suitable place of 25 sq. yards of land with ownership rights in accordance with the policy of MCD. MCD responded saying that many development projects were being undertaken in order to facilitate the holding of the Commonwealth Games, 2010 and in pursuance thereof it was necessary to remove all such jhuggis (huts) and slum clusters to widen a road which was passing through such slum cluster. Additionally MCD also said that these Jhuggies (huts) were not notified for rehabilitation, that there is no rehabilitation policy for such jhuggis (huts) and that the resolution dated 12.02.09 was not legally enforceable. In due course, this petition was tagged along with three other petitions dealing with almost similar issues. After detailed proceedings, which lasted for five months, on 11.02.10 Hon’ble Delhi High Court (Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice A. P. Shah and Justice S. Murlidhar) pronounced the judgment (57 pages long) directing that with in a period of four months, each of those eligible among the petitioners, in terms of the relocation policy, will be granted an alternative site. Court also directed that such relocation will happen in consultation with each of them in a "meaningful manner" and that State agencies will ensure that basic civic amenities, consistent with the right to life and dignity of each of the citizens in the jhuggis, are available at the site of relocation. Court further directed the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to ensure wide publicity to the operative portion and directions in judgment in the local language among the residents of jhuggi cluster in the city as well as in the relocated sites. DLSA was further directed to hold periodical camps in jhuggi clusters and in relocated sites to make the residents aware of their rights.