The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Delhi government and civic agency from demolishing night shelters in the city. It also asked them to ensure that no homeless person dies during this winter.
A bench headed by justice Dalveer Bhandari pulled up the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for razing two of the 64 shelters in the city and directed the agency to reconstruct them within three days.
It ordered the DDA to inform it about the action taken against the officials who were responsible for the demolition of two night shelters at Nehru Place and Kalkaji.
“We are greatly anguished, disappointed and astonished as to how could the authorities be so insensitive, impervious and callous when the winter is so intense,” the bench added and refused to accept DDA’s undertaking that it would take utmost care and precaution in the future.
The DDA offered its apology and claimed that the demolition took place out of ignorance.
According to the counsel, the authority was under the impression that the shelter was an encroachment on public land.
The court also directed the state administration to make sure that the shelters start operating within a week.
The directions were issued after the counsel for the petitioner, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), handed over photographs that showed the shelters in a pathetic state.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said: “These photographs were taken three days ago and contradict government affidavit filed a month ago claiming all the 64 shelters are operating.”
The bench said a joint team, comprising government officials and PUCL members, will inspect the shelters and submit a status report within 10 days.
Seeking assistance from additional solicitor general (ASG) Mohan Parasaran, the bench asked him to visit one of the shelters personally.
On the petitioner's allegations that the 8,500 blankets distributed to the homeless were of inferior quality, the bench asked Parasaran to check the sample himself.
It also told the ASG to look into the New Delhi Municipal Council's decision not to have night shelters in its area.