The Delhi High Court on Thursday rapped the city police for not warning the dwellers at Shakur Basti in west Delhi before carrying out the demolition drive and termed the action as “just like conducting a raid” carried out against its own citizen whom it needs to protect.
“This is not a way to deal with your own citizen, without any forewarning you demolished a cluster of 5000 units. The way of your doing this by stealth speaks of something else like mapping of criminals. The planning appears to be just like conducting a raid,” a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru said.
The bench further said that Delhi Police is not only to protect the railways, its primary duty is to protect people of Delhi, whether they stay in jhuggis or in colonies.
It also took strong exception to JCB machine being used in the demolition drive and people not being allowed to even collect their belongings.
“Why can’t the belongings be allowed to be collected. Everything is in rubbles now. When the JCB comes its a violent act. Some liability needs to be fixed for using violent force against unarmed people,” the bench observed.
The bench also pulled up the the Railways for not doing the survey before carrying out the demolition drive and not taking appropriate steps for rehabilitation.
“You do not do the survey. You only do the demolition every two years. Delhi is not unknown to slums. These slums have existed since pre-partition days. You have to address the root cause,” it said.
Counsel for Railways said that every time there is demolition drive, people move out but again come back to the same place and start residing.
“You can’t protect your own land. Does Railways not have enough funds to fence its own land. How can this happen. You are running so many trains.You should carry out some social responsiblity and do a survey, identify the people living in your land and make efforts to make their lives better,” the bench said.
The court’s observations came on a bunch of public interest litigations filed including that of senior congress leader Ajay Maken, who had sought that the railway ministry and Delhi police should be restrained from carrying out any further demolition drive in Shakur Basti.
The court appointed Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to carry out the survey and share the finding with Central government, Delhi Government and other agencies so that relief materials reach the targeted displaced population.
It also asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to depute an official in the area who will coordinate with other government agencies and prepare a report regarding relief materials being provided to the displaced people.
The bench said that the report shall be submitted in the court and asked all the government agencies to ensure that relief materials should reach the targeted people.
Senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra, appearing for Delhi government, submitted a report detailing the steps taken to provide relief materials to the people in around three km-long Shakur Basti.
Mehra said that around 700-800 families have been affected by the demolition drive and 3000 blankets have been provided to them and 60 big tents have been setup.
He said that breakfast, lunch and dinner are being provided to the people and several mobile toilet vans and medical units have been stationed in the area.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on December 22.
On December 14, the court had come down heavily on the Railway Ministry and police for razing of a slum cluster in west Delhi and directed the authorities to immediately rehabilitate over 5,000 people rendered homeless in this biting cold.
It had also said that there should be no further “violence” against those who have been left homeless and had asked the Delhi government to ensure that the children are given education during the rehabilitation program.