The Hindu Op-Ed Sep 12th 2020 “Smothering the housing rights of the urban poor” by Mathew Idiculla
Why in News? The Supreme Court of India on August 31 ordered the removal of about 48,000 slum dwellings situated along the railway tracks in Delhi.
Why the Order of the SC is unfair and flawed?
- The order violates principles of Natural Justice and ‘due process’since it decided on the removal of slums without hearing the affected party-the slum dwellers. A fair hearing was denied to the poor residents.
- Supreme Court’s own judicial precedents have been violated by the court in its recent judgement:
(a) In Olga Tellis case 1985, the SC had held that the right to life also includes the “right to livelihood” and that no eviction shall take place without notice and hearing those affected.
(b) In Chameli Singh case (1995), the Supreme Court recognised the “right to shelter” as a component of the right to life under Article 21 and freedom of movement under Article 19(1)(e).
- Views of the Judiciary on relocation of the slum dwellers:
In 2010, High Court of Delhi held that prior to any eviction, a survey must be conducted and those evicted should have a right to “meaningful engagement” with the relocation plans. The HC of Delhi has also asserted that the slum dwellers have a “right to the city”.
The impact of SC’s orders on the poor slum dwellers:
India is going through an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. This forced eviction will leave lakhs of people homeless. Over 20,000 people have already been displaced during the pandemic.
What options do the slum dwellers and the fair minded citizens have to protect the ‘right to city’, Article 21-‘right to livelihood’ and ‘right to shelter’ ?
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing has called on member- states to declare an end to forced evictions.
A combination of political and legal strategies is urgently needed to protect the housing rights of citizens dwelling in the slums and ensure that no eviction or rehabilitation is conducted without their prior informed consent.