Bench says it is the responsibility of the State to protect the weak during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Allahabad High Court has restrained the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) from carrying out demolition in a slum area in Ghaziabad, noting that the State should have offered a place to rehabilitate the residents before their eviction and demolition of their houses.
“It would also be appropriate to state that when the entire globe is facing a pandemic, it is the responsibility of the State to protect everyone, more specifically the population of weaker sections from any hardship that may aggravate their plight adversely,” the court stated.
It was hearing a petition seeking directions to the GDA to not undertake any further demolition and or eviction of residents of Bhovapur Basti behind Radisson Blue Hotel, Kaushambi, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
In an order dated October 21, a Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Siddhartha Varma, while granting time to the GDA to file a counter affidavit, directed it not to proceed with the demolition till further orders.
The court also issued directions to provide temporary shelter to the residents of Bhovapur Basti whose houses have already been demolished and see to the viability of providing houses under the Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojna. All necessary arrangements should also be made as a temporary measure by the GDA to provide essential amenities, including light and water, to the residents.
The residents should also be extended all necessary medical facilities, the court said, and listed the next date for November 18 when the GDA would have to propose a complete plan for rehabilitation of the residents.
As per the petition, the ‘basti’ came into existence in 1990 and labourers from different parts of the country live there. Some are involved in rag-picking.
The counsel for the petitioners had argued that the residents could not be evicted without providing them an alternative place of residence as prescribed under the Proviso to Section 26-A of the Uttar Pradesh Planning and Development Act, 1973.
Since the residents hailed from the lower section of society and looking to the need for rehabilitation of such persons, the State Legislature under the Act of 1973 protected their right of residence under the Proviso to Section 26-A, the petitioners had said.
The petitioners also prayed that the court direct the GDA and the State to undertake the complete rehabilitation of all the residents and pay ₹20,000 to each of them as compensation for unlawful demolition undertaken on September 30 and October 9.
As per the petitioner, the District Administration, Ghaziabad, at the instance of Ghaziabad Development Authority was continuously making efforts to remove the residents without providing them any alternative land for their rehabilitation.
The petitioners asserted that on October 9, some of the houses were damaged as an effort was made to evict the residents.
Apprehending complete demolition of houses, the writ was filed.
150 houses demolished
A.Q. Zaidi, counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners, said that about 150 houses had already been demolished by the GDA. According to the counsel, the residents whose houses have been demolished have no roof to protect themselves and they are living in the open.
While opposing the writ, the lawyer appearing on behalf of the GDA stated that whatever action taken by the Authority was in compliance of the directions given by the High Court on September 22, 2015 in PIL 2014 of 2015. It was also further by the administration stated that the residents of Bhovapur Basti were trespassers and, therefore, the encroachment made by them should be removed.