New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed with the Centre’s suggestion to appoint a nodal officer to carry out physical verification of all aspects of residents of jhuggis located in the national capital’s Sarojini Nagar area, and extended the stay on demolition till the next date of hearing.
Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, representing the Centre, submitted before the bench, headed by Justice K.M. Joseph, that the Centre will appoint a nodal officer, the residents of these jhuggis can give all relevant details, and after this is completed, then other things can be worked out.
The bench, also comprising Justice Hrishikesh Roy, agreed with appointment of a nodal officer for carrying out physical verification of all aspects — including duration of stay of the families in the jhuggis, family details, income status etc,
During the course of hearing, the bench noted that land in the capital is valuable in terms of development activities etc, adding that each time if this problem comes up, there should be balancing. The bench noted, “You think of a man who has nobody… is a complete Charlie Chaplin type person, comes and sleeps.. Can you say, don’t?”
The bench suggested to the Centre’s counsel that a proper survey should be conducted to find how many of them have been living there, and for how long, and then orders should be passed.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing the petitioners, referred to the slum rehabilitation scheme. The bench noted that to ensure no jhuggis come upon government lands in future, cameras can be installed for monitoring. It further added the government could have a centralised system to monitor encroachments.
Opposing Singh’s submissions, Nataraj said if he is going on scheme, then arguments will be made on merits. He added that the scheme has no application in the present matter.
After hearing arguments, the bench noted that a nodal officer will be appointed and the petitioners can submit their details regarding location of jhuggis, duration of stay, details of family members, family income, and vocation carried out. The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing in July third week.
It also noted that an undertaking has been given by the Centre that no steps will be taken for removal of ‘jhuggis’ till the next date of hearing.
On April 25, the top court had stopped demolition of around 200 jhuggis at Sarojini Nagar area, saying a model government should take humane approach in the matter. The top court sought central government response on slum dwellers’ prayer that there shall be no demolition without proper relief and rehabilitation plan.
Three of the petitioners are minor school going children, and residents of the said slums. Two of them have to appear for Board exams which were commencing from April 26. “The residents of the said jhuggis are extremely indigent persons such as dhobis, daily wage laborers, rag pickers, maids, street vendors etc. and they do not have any other source of residence. Petitioner No 1, 2 and 4 are minor school going children (attending school in Sarojini Nagar area itself) and residents of the said jhuggis, the Petitioner No. 1 and 4 are also appearing for their Board Exams starting April 26 (as notified by the CBSE)”, said the plea, filed through advocates Nitin Saluja and Aman Panwar.
The plea contended that the petitioners do not seek to hinder any of the development work/ public projects undertaken by the government, and are only seeking rehabilitation/relocation as per the policies of the state.