Rehabilitate slum dwellers, rules court


New Delhi: Stressing that everyone has right to live a decent life, the Delhi High Court Thursday asked the government and the civic agencies to rehabilitate jhuggi (slum) dwellers even if they were encroaching on public land.

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Pronouncing his last judgment of the tenure, Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah said: “Everyone has the right to live a decent life.”

“It is not uncommon that in the garb of evicting slums and beautifying the city, the state agencies, in fact, end up creating more slums. The only difference is that this time this is away from the gaze of the city dwellers,” Justice Shah said on his last working day.

“It cannot be expected that human beings in a jhuggi cluster will simply vanish if their homes are uprooted and their names effaced from government records. They are the citizens who help rest of the city to live a decent life and they deserve protection and the respect of the rights to life and dignity which the Constitution guarantees them.”

The court was hearing the plea of slum dwellers removed from the places where they lived for years. The government had issued them ration and election cards but was not rehabilitating them as they were encroaching on public land.

“The decision of the respondents (government and civic agencies) holding that the petitioners are on the right of way and are, therefore, not entitled to relocation, is hereby declared as illegal and unconstitutional,” the bench said, adding all those eligible for rehabilitation should be granted an alternative site as per the Master Plan-Delhi 2021 within four months.

“The state agencies will ensure that basic civic amenities, consistent with the rights to life and dignity of each of the citizens in the jhuggis, are available at the site of relocation.”

The bench also directed the member secretary of the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to give wide publicity to this judgment among the residents of slum clusters in the city as well as in the relocated sites.

“The DLSA will also hold periodical camps in jhuggi clusters and in relocated sites to make the residents aware of their rights,” the bench ordered.

Prashant Bhushan, who was appearing for one of the petitioners in the case, also become emotional and thanked the outgoing Chief Justice, praising his humanistic approach and positive attitude.