Supreme Court asks Haryana to evict residents of Aravalli slums
- The bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari referred to its June 7 order on another petition in which it had refused to stay the demolition drive and directed the municipal corporation of Faridabad to finish clearing the hutments within six weeks.
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Haryana government to evict thousands of slum-dwellers encroaching on Aravalli forest land in Faridabad district and clear all encroachments by July 19.
A plea was moved jointly by four people living in Khori Gaon in Faridabad, requesting the court to restrain the authorities from carrying out demolition and give them some more time to produce documents to prove their claims for rehabilitation. But the bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari referred to its June 7 order on another petition in which it had refused to stay the demolition drive and directed the municipal corporation of Faridabad to finish clearing the hutments within six weeks.
“We want our forest land to be cleared. We have given enough time to the occupants and said repeatedly that they will have to vacate. But if they happen to be still there, it is at their own risk. It is forest land, not some other land. It has to be cleared,” the bench said.
Advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for the dwellers in the fresh petition, submitted that there were around 10,000 families on the site, including women and children, who had nowhere to go once their hutments were pulled down.
But the bench was unmoved. “Don’t give us numbers. For how long have they been occupying this forestland? When it came to our notice, we also passed an order in April last year, giving you ample time to produce relevant documents so that you could be rehabilitated. But you did nothing. The forestland has to be cleared now...what has been happening is extraordinary. This is not the rule of law. There cannot be petitions after petitions,” the bench said.
Bhat pleaded for a stay by saying that the demolition drive was being carried out without verifying the documents the people could produce in place of the title deeds. But the court, unconvinced, said the petitioners “missed the bus” by doing nothing to produce the documents in the year since the demolition drive was notified by the corporation in February 2020.
“You have missed the bus. You accepted the order last year and never wanted any modification. You cannot come up with new excuses every time. We can only reiterate in our order that they will follow the law and will adhere to the rehabilitation scheme,” the court said.
On her part, Bhat again emphasised that most of the dwellers were poor migrants and destitute, but the court said: “That is for the state to consider how damage can be minimised. We are only concerned about eviction of the forest area. We gave you more than a year to do the needful. You cannot keep on occupying the forest areas.”
Appearing for the Haryana government, additional advocate general Ruchi Kohli complained of stone pelting by occupants during the demolition drive. The bench, however, retorted: “You know what to do. We don’t have to say anything. We want our orders to be complied with.”
The court said it cannot “indulge” the petitioner and added that the “corporation and state authorities may proceed on the basis of the commitment given to this court” that demolition will follow the due process and rehabilitation will be examined as per the state’s scheme.
The bench has fixed July 27 as the next date of hearing.