Supreme Court: Govt also at fault for unauthorised colonies | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Supreme Court: Govt also at fault for unauthorised colonies

Feb 29, 2024 11:46 PM IST

The apex court was hearing a case concerning demolition of commercial and residential units in Lucknow’s Akbar Nagar

One of the main causes of the explosion of unauthorised structures is the government’s incapacity to provide people with access to affordable homes, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday, adding that the right to shelter is a fundamental right.

The bench was seized of a clutch of petitions challenging the demolition of 24 commercial spaces in Lucknow’s Akbar Nagar after the Allahabad High Court dismissed the pleas of the occupants on February 27. (ANI)
The bench was seized of a clutch of petitions challenging the demolition of 24 commercial spaces in Lucknow’s Akbar Nagar after the Allahabad High Court dismissed the pleas of the occupants on February 27. (ANI)

“There is some fault with the government also here. Land mostly is always with the government and the land prices are very high. People cannot afford...Take Delhi for example. Why are there so many unauthorised colonies in Delhi? Because DDA (Delhi Development Authority) could not do much,” lamented a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta.

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Hearing a case concerning demolition of commercial and residential units in Lucknow’s Akbar Nagar, the court further emphasised: “Right to have a roof over one’s head is a fundamental right. This court has held so.”

The bench was seized of a clutch of petitions challenging the demolition of 24 commercial spaces in Lucknow’s Akbar Nagar after the Allahabad High Court dismissed the pleas of the occupants on February 27.

Senior counsel S Muralidhar and Shoeb Alam appeared for the petitioners, complaining that the demolition started on February 27, minutes after the high court order, depriving them of having a day in the Supreme Court. Alam pointed out that the occupants have been there since 1970s, pleading demolition could be stayed until the Supreme Court grants a detailed hearing.

However, additional solicitor general KM Nataraj, representing the Lucknow Development Authority and the Uttar Pradesh government, argued that the petitioners before the bench were occupants of commercial properties, who were running shops and other commercial units illegally on the government land. The ASG added that none of the petitioners belongs to economically weaker sections, and they were all income tax payees. Nataraj also clarified that there were no residential units being demolished by LDA and that the issue relating to demolition of residential units was pending before the high court.

At this, the bench told Alam that the court cannot intervene when titles and ownership are admittedly with the government even as it acknowledges the inconvenience caused to the occupants, which the state government will take care of in terms of the prevailing policy.

It then proceeded to record ASG Nataraj’s statement that 23 of 24 commercial properties have already been demolished.

“It is to be noted that petitioners are not stating that they own the lands, and that the land belongs to and owned by the government. The constructions, therefore, would be unauthorised and illegal. Thus, we direct that the petitioner herein would be entitled to remove all his belongings on or before midnight of March 4,2024. Thereafter the petitioner can also move an application under the scheme for alternate accommodation. After midnight of March 4, 2024, LDA shall be entitled to demolish the structure, take photos pre- and post-demolition and photograph left behind belongings,” stated the bench in its order.

On the fate of 1800 houses in the two-decade old colony, the bench recorded Nataraj’s submissions that no residential unit will be razed down until the high court decides the related petitions pending there.

“Please have a little humane approach... Mr Natraj, please be careful. Many will be poor... In demolishing houses, do not precipitate action. Let the high court take a call,” the court told the ASG while disposing of the matter.

The occupants of the commercial spaces approached the high court challenging the LDA’s demolition orders. However, a division bench on February 27 dismissed their petition, stating that it found no reason to exercise the court’s discretionary jurisdiction.

The division of the residents into taxpayers and Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards was crucial to the high court’s decision. The high court observed that the parties had misrepresented themselves as slum residents and had not given correct information. The petitioners were not slum inhabitants, nor did their establishments fall inside the defined slum region, the court clarified after perusing the relevant documents.

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