The first order on migrant workers was issued on March 29 after Delhi witnessed a mass exodus of labourers in violation of lockdown rules and social distancing norms, despite appeals by the government urging them to stay back.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
The first order on migrant workers was issued on March 29 after Delhi witnessed a mass exodus of labourers in violation of lockdown rules and social distancing norms, despite appeals by the government urging them to stay back.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

Delhi govt orders landlords not to force students to pay rent for a month

The fresh order issued on Wednesday -- HT has reviewed it -- calls for a waiver of at least one month’s rent and makes forceful eviction a punishable offence under the Disaster Management Act.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Abhishek Dey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 24, 2020 12:36 AM IST

Weeks after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged property owners in the city not to force tenants, especially migrant workers to pay their monthly rent during the lockdown, the Delhi government has issued a fresh order that covers students living in the city.

The first order on migrant workers was issued on March 29 after Delhi witnessed a mass exodus of labourers in violation of lockdown rules and social distancing norms, despite appeals by the government urging them to stay back.

In the days that followed, several student groups wrote to the chief minister seeking help on similar grounds, officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The fresh order issued on Wednesday -- HT has reviewed it -- calls for a waiver of at least one month’s rent and makes forceful eviction a punishable offence under the Disaster Management Act.

It also directs district magistrates to spread awareness on this issue and advice people to call the police in case of a dispute.

The order mandates that deputy commissioners of police in the city’s districts submit a weekly report to the district magistrate on such instances, starting April 27.

Both orders — the one issued on March 29 and the other issued on Wednesday — invoked Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which particularly deals with the power of the state executive committee. In Delhi, for Covid-19 outbreak and the related lockdown, chief secretary Vijay Dev is the head of the committee and is the officer who signed both orders.

“Instances of landlords forcing students for immediate payment of rent or forcefully evicting them have been brought to the knowledge of the government,” Dev said.

The order said: “The district magistrates shall undertake awareness campaign on this issue particularly in areas with a higher density of migrant workers, labourers and students, to advice people to lodge complaints to police control room dialling 100…”

The order comes as a big relief for hundreds of students who are stuck in Delhi due to the ongoing lockdown. The Delhi University’s Kerala Students’ Association last week wrote to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal stating that landlords were pressuring many students to pay rent.

Amal K Simon, president of the association, said: “This will be a big relief. Many students from Kerala are stuck in Delhi. We are really happy that the government has brought this matter under the ambit of the Disaster Management Act.”

A majority of the students enrolled in Delhi University colleges live in rented flats and paying guest accommodation in the absence of adequate hostel facilities. Many of those studying in Jawaharlal Nehru University also live in rented rooms in the Ber Sarai, Munirka and Kishangarh areas.

Saket Moon, vice president of JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU), said that the government order will help many students who are unable to pay rents due to the delay in the release of their fellowship amounts because of the lockdown.

BS Vohra, president of a residents’ welfare association (RWA) collective, however, said, “The government should also think about people whose only source of income is house rent. There are many such retired people, widows, disabled and elderly people in the city. They should be compensated.”

A senior official in the chief minister’s office said the government is open to this and may come up with a scheme by next week.

Office bearers of several other RWAs too raised the issue and said the fresh order would affect their livelihood, which is a constitutional right.

Sanjay Hegde, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court, said: “This is a state executive committee’s response to a different form of disaster and such a committee has the power to specify measures to be taken for prevention or mitigation. A waiver of a month’s rent is arguably a measure of mitigation and is likely to be upheld, as such, if ever challenged in a court of law.”

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