Khori demolition to continue, SC says
The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the ongoing demolition of encroachments in Faridabad’s Khori Gaon village on Aravalli land to be completed in four weeks, as it directed the city’s municipal authority to ensure that no illegal structure occupying forest land is spared.
The Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF) on Friday asked the top court for more time to comply with its June 7 order, which gave authorities six weeks to demolish illegal structures in the village, and directed Haryana to finalise its rehabilitation policy before July 31.
The apex court on February 19 last year directed all encroachments to be cleared from Aravalli forest land, after which MCF carried out demolitions in the village in April this year.
A bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari allowed the civic body four weeks to complete the demolitions, and said, “Our direction to remove all structures on forest land applies to all structures without any exception.”
The observation was made after some residents of the village claimed that state and municipal authorities were acting swiftly against the poor while sparing the rich who have constructed farmhouses and commercial structures on forest land.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the residents, moved an application in this regard producing a list of 50 such properties in Faridabad and another 10 in Gurugram district. Gonsalves said, “In the very area said to be a forest area in which as this court has said no one can stay, there are a large number of farmhouses of rich people, hotels, ashrams and other commercial establishments that continue in the forest area with the protection of the state government. The decision of the government to evict only the poor and allow the rich to stay is blatant discrimination on the grounds of class.”
Senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj, appearing for MCF, said Khori Gaon is spread over 150 acres in a Faridabad village. Of this, the corporation has cleared 74 acres of forest land and the demolition has so far been peaceful. He said the properties alleged to be on forest land, as mentioned in the application, could be beyond 150 acres.
Several group of residents of Khori village filed separate applications requesting the court to first provide them temporary shelter and food before rendering them homeless. Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, representing a group of residents, said that with the approaching monsoons and the prevailing Covid-19 outbreak, their lives were at serious risk, and cited a call by experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council to stop forced evictions during the pandemic.
Six UN special rapporteurs who were part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council appealed to the Indian government to stop the eviction of Khori residents.
Referring to the above statement, the bench remarked, “Before going public, they should have read the case paper books and our orders.”
The Haryana government, represented in court by additional advocate general Ruchi Kohli, presented an affidavit which said that the state is considering plans to shift residents’ goods and provide them transportation and temporary shelter.
Most residents of Khori Gaon have lived there since 2010, but were not entitled for rehabilitation under the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy as this scheme requires an inhabitant to occupy government or government agency land as on April 1, 2003.
The court allowed the affected residents to present their suggestions to the authorities within a day or two. It directed the state to finalise its rehabilitation policy before July 31 and allowed the residents who are still aggrieved with the policy to challenge it by the next date of hearing on August 3.
Till then, the Court directed that any resident who has a grievance about temporary shelter, transportation, etc can bring the matter to the notice of the Commissioner, MCF who will then take corrective measures. “In case no relief can be given, the reason for not giving relief should be recorded so that it can be examined appropriately by the Court on the next date.”