SC Orders Status Quo on the Demolition of around 10,000 Slums in Gujarat.

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant passed an order on 24th August, Tuesday to stop the ongoing demolition of the slum dwellings along the railway tracks between Surat Railway Station and Udhna Railway Station in Surat for the construction of a third railway line project from Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon. The order was passed after the matter was mentioned for urgent listing.

A plea was filed by Surat-based “Uttan se Besthan Railway Jhopadpatti Vikas Mandal” stating that “irreparable injury” would be caused to the slum dwellers, who are residing on the Railway Land if they are not provided with the alternate arrangement and once they would be evicted and made homeless, their condition would become more miserable especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition was filed through advocate Satya Mitra who claimed that no time has been given to the slum dwellers to vacate the place and the authorities have been forcing them to vacate within 24 hours.

“The impinged order dated August 19, 2021 violates the various judgements laid down by Supreme Court of India in which the court has held Right to Housing as an important ingredient of Article 21 of the Constitution of India and has emphasized on the rehabilitation of the slum dwellers,” said the plea while challenging the high court order.

Late Congress leader Rizwan Usmani moved to the Gujarat High Court in 2014 to put a stay order on the demolition however the order was lifted on August 19, 2021.

On August 22, the railway authorities issued notices to around 10,000 slum dwellers to vacate their houses within 24 hours. The Railway Authorities, led by two Additional Divisional Railway Managers, Engineering staff, Technical staff along with Surat Police, RPF, GRP, and SRP reached Mafatnagar and started demolition activities, the residents pleaded to stop but the demolition work didn’t stop.

Surat Railway Station Director, Dinesh Verma said, “Around 1000 huts were demolished. We will wait till tomorrow and decide on our future course of action.” after the SC order came of stopping the demolition work.
Zamir Shaikh, the advocate of the slum dwellers said, “ There are over 10,000 people residing in slums here, they were not given alternate houses under PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) or Mukhya Mantri Awas Yojna, they are on the roads. A further hearing will take place in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.”

The plea was filed by the residents of more than 10,000 slums asking for an alternate residence as they would be left homeless.

The plea said, “They have been residing on Railway land for more than 60 years now. Most of them have proof of residence, voter ID Cards and Ration Cards.”

Kailash Devi, a resident of the slum said “ Our slums are being demolished…please allot Awas to us. The majority of the people residing in our areas are working as labourers….We have been staying here for over 30 years and are poor. We are ready to vacate but provide us alternate houses.”

The matter will now be heard by a division bench of Justice Sanjay Khanna and AM Khanwilkar tomorrow.

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