The eviction of nearly 2.5 lakh people - living in 48,000 slum dwellings in Delhi near the railway tracks - has been put on hold till a final decision is taken, the central government today told the Supreme Court. The top court had last month ordered the removal of the slum dwellings in a phased manner within three months, while also cautioning against "interference, political or otherwise" with its order.
"The Ministry of Railways is in consultation with the Delhi government and the Urban Development Ministry, and soon a decision will be taken. No slums will be removed till a decision is taken," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the centre, told the Supreme Court. The Delhi government said it "will fully cooperate with the centre on the issue". The Railways, in a statement, today said: "Railways will not dismantle any encroachment without proper decision along with MOUD and state government"
"We have taken on record the statement of the Solicitor General that no removal till a final decision is taken," Chief Justice SA Bobde said after hearing him. The three-judge bench that recorded the assurance also had Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian.
The top court was hearing petitions linked to the August 31 order, including the one filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken last Friday. The top court will hold a hearing on the issue again after four weeks.
Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singvi, representing the Congress, today told the court: "We are grateful for the statement of Solicitor General. Demolition took place on Friday and Saturday."
The Solicitor General said: "Such demolitions may be in pursuance to some other cases but not in this case".
In his petition, filed along with a slum dweller Kailash Pandit, Congress leader Ajay Maken had sought rehabilitation of the slum dwellers before the removal of slums.
"The removal order was passed without hearing the slum dwellers. If slums are removed, more than 2,50,000 people will be out on roads. Needless to say, even if a small percentage of the displaced population is affected by COVID-19, it will prove to be a recipe for disaster in the current pandemic," the petition read.
The Congress leader welcome the temporary stay on the eviction process today in a tweet. "Supreme Court, while hearing to our petition, has agreed that the matter to remove 48,000 slums will be resolved in four weeks and no slums will be removed till then. I thank Abhishek Manu Singhvi for his contribution in providing them relief," Mr Maken tweeted in Hindi this afternoon.
In the August 31 order, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who has now retired, said: "The encroachments in 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."