Supreme Court directs removal of encroachments in Faridabad Khori Gaon demolition

Deepali Kalia

The Apex court on June 7th directed the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to remove all encroachments on Khori Gaon forest land within six weeks even if police force is required to do so.

The order was passed by a vacation bench of JusticesAM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari while hearing a plea filed through Advocate Satya Mitra representing the residents of Khori Gaon Basti in Faridabad, Haryana which sought an immediate stay on the proposed demolition of around 10,000 houses in the area.

“Therefore, we reiterate our directions given to State and corporation and expect that the corporation will remove all encroachments on forest land not later than 6 weeks and report compliance under the signature of Chief Secretary and Secretary of Haryana Forest Department.” The bench ordered observing that the petitioners were bound by the directions given by the Apex court and the Punjab & Haryana High Court.

Hence, the court has directed the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to carry out its February 2020 order.

If the petitioners resist the eviction drive then the petition filed would be dismissed, the top court warned.

The petition claimed that “Without following the procedure in accordance with law and so violating their right to housing.”, the Municipal Corporation was conducting unlawful demolition of about 1,700 slums at Khori Gaon.

“Since this is forest land petitioners do not claim any title over the land. They only seek rehabilitation. Right to Housing is implemented in various states by various policies of the Central and State governments.” the plea stated.

The petition contended the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy to the degree that it limited the cut off for rehabilitation to 2003.

The top court made the following remarks after Advocate Colin Gonsalves stated that the evicted dwellers be given rehabilitation, “Who is asking this? Land grabbers? When you come to court you become honest and law abiding. On site you don’t do anything lawful. Vacate the premise on your own so that corporation does not have to spend on evicting you, if you want your petition to be considered, be a law-abiding citizen. You cannot have them pressurize you to leave and then ask for accommodation.”

Earlier in 2010 after some of the jhuggis were demolished the petitioners had moved to the Punjab & Haryana High Court in 2010. In 2016, with a direction to the State of Haryana to heed the claims made by petitioners in accordance with the terms of HUDA police, their plea was disposed of.

The petitioners also urged the top court to find out if the present cutoff date of 2003 is not outdated and arbitrary since it was around 18 years ago that thousands of jhuggi dwellers would have settled in the area.

It was submitted by the petitioners that the dwellers have been living on the government land since 1980 and “Are unable to show any proofs of existence since then; since they were not given ration cards or identity cards so that their names could figure on the voters’ list”.

“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 plea stated.

The plea further stated that,“It must be kept in mind that the majority of the residents of Khori Gaon colony are employed in the unorganised sector, did not receive formal education, and thus lack the awareness and resources required to maintain proper documentation, especially dating back prior to 2004. For example, out of about 10,000 families from Khori Gaon informal settlement, less than 1000 families would qualify for rehabilitation under the said Policy, and the residents would be rendered homeless if the Municipal Corporation undertakes the demolition/eviction drive which it has been threatening repeatedly.”

The petitioners claimed that about 300 jhuggis have been demolished since the demolition drive began in April 2, 2021.

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