In his last judgment of Justice Arun Mishra’s tenure as Supreme Court judge, SC has ordered the removal of 48,000 jhuggies (temporary houses) along the 140 km Delhi railway track. The court gave a timeframe of three months to execute the order.
The three-judge bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice B R Gavai, and Justice Krishna Murari noted that the shanties (jhuggies) across the Delhi railway track were encroachments within the safety zones of railways.
The bench also ruled that if any interim order will be passed in order to stay the removal along the railway tracks, the order will not be effective.
Supreme Court bench observed, “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 court also stated that any action taken in this regard must be reported to the court within one month.
After coming across the report submitted by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) and reply filed by Railways, the apex court observed, “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 in its report, had submitted 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,” stated the report.
The bench while hearing the matter also pointed out that there were certain political interventions because of which the removal was getting postponed. The court ruled, “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 01.10.2018 passed by the NGT PB New Delhi. There seems to be some political intervention against removal of such encroachments which are coming in the way.”
The court directed to start the process with the removal of plastic bags, garbage, etc. Three judge bench also ruled that all the stakeholders including NCT government and concerned municipal corporations, and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Trust (DUISB) should conduct a meeting next week and start the work.
The court order also states, “70% 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.”
Besides removing the jhuggies along the railway track, the court has also ordered the construction of smog towers to curb the air pollution within the next 10 months.
The court observed, “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.”