The Supreme Court on Monday ordered eviction of thousands of slum dwellers encroaching on Aravali forest area in Haryana’s Faridabad district, holding that there cannot be a compromise or concession on forest land.
The top court gave six weeks to the municipal corporation of Faridabad to complete the demolition and directed the secretary, forests department of Haryana government to file a compliance affidavit before the next date of hearing on July 27.
As the municipal commission had complained of stone pelting by occupants during the demolition drive carried out in April this year, the bench directed police protection to the corporation officials visiting the site and Faridabad superintendent of police was held personally responsible for ensuring adequate logistical support for the corporation.
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The bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari held, “We expect that the corporation will take all essential measures to remove encroachments on the subject forest land without any exception, not later than six weeks from today and submit a compliance report in that behalf, under the signature of the chief executive officer of the corporation.”
The dwellers of Khori Gaon in Faridabad had approached the Supreme Court for protection after the municipal corporation of faridabad began to demolish their houses in April this year. After nearly 300 houses were demolished, the occupants of the remaining 10,000 houses approached the top court seeking rehabilitation before their houses got demolished.
The bench termed them “land grabbers” and refused to come to their aid. In the past, the top court had, on February 19, 2020, and then on April 5, 2021, directed the occupants to be cleared from forest land. On Monday, the bench reiterated, “We make it clear that the corporation shall proceed in the matter as observed in our orders dated February 19, 2020 and April 5, 2021.”
As the past directions of the court were not complied with, the bench observed, “It seems like the corporation does not intend to evict (the occupants).” The corporation was represented by senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj who said that corporation officials required adequate protection as past experience showed how occupants had pelted stones at them.
The bench observed, “We want a certificate from the authorities that the forest land is completely cleared of encroachment. This being forest land, there can be no concession or compromise. Either you (petitioners) vacate on your own or we will ask the municipal corporation to forcefully evict you.” The court demanded an undertaking from the petitioners to vacate the land.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who represented the slum dwellers, argued that during a pandemic it would be difficult for such a large number of people to find alternate accommodation. He requested the court to first consider their claim for rehabilitation under the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy as Right to Housing is a fundamental right under Article 21 of Constitution. This scheme requires an inhabitant to be in occupation of government or government agency land as on April 1, 2003. Most of the petitioners have been living on the land in question since 2010.
Gonsalves requested the court to consider tweaking the rehabilitation policy in order to accommodate the petitioners. The petition filed through advocate Satya Mitra said, “They (petitioners) have been residing on government land since 1980. Most of them, however, are unable to show any proofs of existence since then. Many of the residents today have proof of existence since 2010 onwards, when they were given ration cards and election cards and other forms of identity.”
The bench said that once the certificates (of compliance) are submitted in six weeks, the court will consider passing further directions including due verification of certificates by an independent agency.