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Supreme Court orders removal of 48,000 jhuggies along Delhi railway tracks

NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 3—The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the removal of 48,000 jhuggies (shanties) along 140 kilometres of railway track around Delhi within three months in a (MC Mehta vs Union of India).

In what was one of the last judgments passed by Justice Arun Mishra, the Bench ordered the removal of the shanties, noting that they were encroachments within the safety zones of railways.

The three-judge bench of Justices Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari also held that if any interim order is passed in the meanwhile staying the removal of the encroachments along the railway tracks, such an order will not be effective.

“The encroachments which are there in the safety zones should be removed within a period of three months and no interference, political or otherwise, should be there and no court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments in the area in question. In case, any interim order is granted with respect to encroachments, which have been made along with railway tracks, that shall not be effective.”

The action taken in this regard is required to be reported to the Supreme Court within one month.

The court noted that the report of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) as well as the reply filed by the Railways indicates that “nothing has been done so far and waste is being piled up and at the same time, there is human habitation which has come in the same area unauthorisedly, which are required to be taken care of.”

The Railways had submitted before the Court that there was a predominant presence of jhuggies along the 140 km length of track in the region of NCT of Delhi where the railway tracks take off in different directions and also include a ring connecting the take off of all these routes.

Out of this, about 70 km length of track is affected by large jhuggie-jhopri clusters existing in close vicinity of the tracks. These clusters sum up to a total of about 48,000 jhuggies.

The Court further noted that there were certain “political interventions” which had affected the removal of these encroachments earlier.

The bench stated, “Special Task Force for removal of encroachments from the Railway Property has already been constituted by Railway in terms of the directions and order dated October 1, 2018 passed by the NGT, New Delhi. There seems to be some political intervention against removal of such encroachments which are coming in the way.”

The Court has further directed that a plan be executed with respect to removal of the plastic bags, garbage etc. within a period of three months. A meeting of all the stakeholders, i.e. Railways, NCT government and concerned municipal corporations as well as the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Trust (DUISB) shall be called next week and work be started forthwith, the Court ruled.

The order states, “70 per cent  of the requisite amount shall be borne by the Railways and 30% by the State Government. The manpower be provided by the SDMC, Railways and agencies available with the Government, free of cost, and they will not charge it from each other. SDMC, Railways and other agencies to ensure that their Contractors do not put the waste/garbage on the sides of the railway tracks.”

In a related matter, the Court was told that the smog towers to be set up to curb air pollution in the capital would be constructed within ten months.

The court noted, “Any violation on any ground whatsoever shall be treated as contempt of the order passed by this Court as there is already huge unjustified delay in making the compliance of the order.”

Credit: Bar & Bench.

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