Delhi High Court on Friday stayed an eviction notice, issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, directing three eminent artistes to vacate government-allotted accommodations.
The artists, including two Padma Shri awardees, stated in their plea against the notice that the accommodation was granted to them for their extraordinary contribution in the field of their respective arts, which they are still promoting despite earning very little.
A Bench of Justice Navin Chawla after hearing the submission of the petitioners -- the three aggrieved artists, Bharati Shivaji, V Jayarama Rao and Banarasi Rao -- on December 23 put a stay on the said eviction notice and sought response from the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The court has slated the matter for next hearing January 22, 2021, even as it clarified, "This order shall, however, not prevent the respondents to consider the representation of the petitioners and communicate the decision thereon to the petitioners."
The petitioners through the plea also sought a direction to the respondents to formulate/frame policy/guidelines for permitting the eminent artists to continue to retain their accommodation for lifetime upon payment of a periodic nominal licence fee.
The plea stated that the petitioners are all senior citizens who do not have any alternate accommodation to stay in Delhi except for the one provided by the government. The petitioners, unlike other professionals, do not make substantial sums of money and in fact, the monies that they earn are only paltry in nature, which is also reinvested, in their artistic works, the plea said.
The plea added: "The petitioners are required to reside in Delhi since their institutions are situated here. Moreover, Delhi being the capital of the country provides an apt platform for cultural exchanges and showcasing their artistic works on occasions, which are of national importance. The petitioners are brand ambassadors of art and culture of the country. They are prized possessions and must be nurtured and taken care of."
The traditional art and culture can be inculcated into the next generation only through apprenticeship with such eminent artists, instead of evicting them and leaving them homeless, the plea further said.
It added that petitioner Shivaji is one of the foremost gurus and performers of Mohiniyattam. "She is an artist of national and international repute and is a recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri award, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman, besides various other awards for her contribution to having revived and propagating Mohiniyattam, the classical dance of Kerala, in India and abroad as well."
"Whereas, petitioner Rao is known today as one of the foremost gurus and performers of Kuchipudi, the classical dance of Andhra Pradesh. He has trained innumerable students in this dance form. Some of his prominent students were Swapna Sundari, Meenakshi Seshadri and Banarasi Rao who is also his wife and dance partner," the plea said.
According to the petition, the three artistes were given accommodation way back in 1987 pursuant to certain guidelines evolved by the government. Thereafter, from time to time there have been repeated extensions of their stay.
On November 21, 2008, the government further formulated and fine-tuned a policy, by which even after expiration of the term of the licence, the stay could be extended if national interest and international obligations so warrant.
The petitioners were shocked to recently receive the eviction notices pointing out that their stay has been illegal since 2014 and that they should vacate the premises within three months. The petitioners made repeated representations in a bid to sort out the issue.
In fact, in the past as well upon representations, the stay had been extended. However, no hearing was given nor was any reasoning proffered on why suddenly the government had decided to evict the petitioners, the petition mentioned.