Supreme Court Orders Removal of 48,000 ‘jhuggis’ along railway tracks in NCT of Delhi

The Supreme Court has ordered the removal of about 48,000 slum dwellings situated along the railway tracks in the national capital within three months. The top court also said there shall not be any kind of political interference in the execution of the plan. The slum dwellings will be removed in a phased manner, it said.

The Supreme Court also restrained any court from granting any kind of stay concerning the removal of encroachments in the area and said in case any interim order is granted with respect to encroachments along railway tracks that shall not be effective.

A bench of justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, which took note of the report filed by the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), directed action taken be reported to the court within one month on the removal of waste and encroachments in the area.

“We also direct all stakeholders that a comprehensive plan for removal of jhuggies be made and executed in a phased manner. The encroachments which are there 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,” it said.

The order was passed in the MC Mehta case, in which the apex court had been passing a slew of directions from time to time since 1985 in issues related to pollution in and around Delhi.

The bench passed the direction after the Railways stated in the affidavit filed before the Court that there is a ‘predominant presence’ of jhuggies in Delhi along with 140 km route length of track in the region of NCT of Delhi.

“Out of this, about 70 km route length of track is affected by jhuggie jhopri clusters existing in close vicinity of tracks,” the bench recorded in its order. The order of the bench was passed on August 31 but was uploaded on the apex court’s website recently.

Justice Mishra demitted the office on Wednesday. Reacting to the order, former Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra blamed the AAP government in the national capital and the BJP-led central government for the situation. The Delhi government had promised these jhuggi owners that will get pucca houses but failed to mention this to the Supreme Court, he said.

The Centre, on the other hand, has railway ministry under them. Why were they mere mute spectators in the Supreme Court and did not defend the case of these poor people in a proper manner, he added.

Chopra said that the judgment had come at a time when the country was going through the hardships of a pandemic. Under such circumstances how can these poor people be rendered homeless, he asked.

‘Remove plastic bags, garbage near tracks’

The Supreme Court also directed the Railways and MCDs to remove plastic bags and garbage collected on and near the railway track as they cause pollution and safety hazard.

The EPCA, in its report, has sought a direction to Railways to present a time-bound plan for solid waste management in the northern region, starting with Delhi and its vicinity.