The court asked the authorities to file affidavits and posted the matter for further hearing on February 18.
The court asked the authorities to file affidavits and posted the matter for further hearing on February 18.

Whose road it is, asks Delhi HC after demolition drive leaves people displaced

The court was hearing a plea by 121 families who had contended that authorities carried out the demolition from July 6 to July 8, 2020 with absolute disregard to the plight of even around 400 residents who were home quarantined on account of Covid-19.
By Richa banka
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 01:02 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi high court has directed the city government’s Public Works Department (PWD) and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) to name the land owning agency of the East Laxmi Nagar Market area where a demolition drive was conducted in July last year to remove encroachment on the service road alongside the nullah road, also known as the Master Plan Road.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, on January 19, 2021, asked the civic body and the PWD to indicate the owner of the land as per records after both them said that the land does not belong to them.

The court was hearing a plea by 121 families who had contended that authorities carried out the demolition from July 6 to July 8, 2020 with absolute disregard to the plight of even around 400 residents who were home quarantined on account of Covid-19. They had alleged that they were treated in an inhumane manner and all their means of existence were destroyed.

The east civic body had demolished 56 houses constructed on a service road of the Master Plan Road following a court order on clearing encroachments. On July 17, 2020 Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had visited the spot and ordered that the people affected by the drive be immediately shifted to temporary shelters. He had also directed officials to begin an in-depth study of the high court order and whether a court order for demolition can be issued in the times of a pandemic.

The residents were rehabilitated temporarily in a Delhi government school. However, according to their counsel, a notice was given in September, 2020 asking them to leave the shelter home in the school as it was in the process of being renovated to resume physical classes, whenever it would be scheduled. While most of them left in September itself, others have vacated the place recently.

On Tuesday, senior advocate Salman Khurshid, for the petitioners, told the court that were till now being housed in schools but since the schools now are being reopened, they have been removed.

He contended that the authority which claims to be the owner of the land should consider rehabilitating the petitioners and other displaced persons according to their policies.

Advocate J Priyadarshini, also counsel for the petitioners, said that her clients are staying in difficult conditions at these alternative accommodations after they were asked to vacate the school.

While the counsel for the EDMC said that the land was owned by the PWD, the latter’s counsel denied the claim.

The court asked the authorities to file affidavits and posted the matter for further hearing on February 18.

Earlier, on July 24, 2020, the high court had said that onus of providing accommodation to displaced families was on the Delhi government, as over the years, officials of the public works department (PWD) or the road owing agency had either not been vigilant or had ignored the extensive encroachments.

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