In an apparent setback to the Delhi government, the Delhi high court on Tuesday rejected its plea to allow shutting down of 84 temporary night shelters in the city.
Citing low occupancy and huge expenditure involved in their maintenance, the Delhi government standing counsel Najmi Waziri had told the court that the government "spent around Rs 1.2 crore per month on night shelters while occupancy was less than 20%".
The government had also accused the NGOs which run these shelters of having "vested interest" in their continuance since they are paid Rs 30,000 per month from the government coffers to maintain these shelters. Night shelters were set up following an earlier order of the court.
"The prayer for closure of temporary night shelters is unacceptable and the same stands rejected," Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna ruled.
The bench also issued a slew of directions to the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to improve the conditions in the night shelters. "The poor occupants shall not be treated like animals," the judges said.
The court was of the view that temporary night shelters cannot be closed just
because of the expenditure involved. "There is a stipulation for it in the MPD 2021. The court also while ordering them
had concluded that they were a need and necessity," said the bench.
But the court gave the government the liberty to act against the NGOs running them if they were found to be acting irresponsibly.
"If any particular NGO has not acted with responsibility and accountability, it is open to the state government and the improvement board to take appropriate action against it or discontinue engaging it. But that should not be the ground for closing the temporary shelter homes," the court said.