The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that the slums near railway tracks in Delhi will not be removed until the Railways discusses it with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to find a solution within the next four weeks, Live Law reported. On August 31, the top court had ordered 48,000 slum dwellings to be removed within three months.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta made the submission in response to a petition by Congress leader Ajay Maken, who sought a recall of the top court’s order. A slum dweller was also party to the petition, Bar and Bench reported. The petitioners sought that the residents of the 48,000 huts be relocated before the structures are demolished.

Mehta also said in his submission that no slum dwellers will be evicted or the huts demolished until a meeting is held between the Delhi government and the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. But senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi informed the court that though Mehta had said there would be no demolitions, they did in fact take place on Friday and Monday. In response, Mehta claimed the demolitions were carried out pursuant to some other matter, not the case at hand.

The Supreme Court had in its August 31 order said that the slums must be removed due to problems such as environmental degradation, accumulation of plastic waste etc. It also said that no other court can order a stay on its directive.

However, Ajay Maken’s intervention application on Monday said that the slum dwellers were not heard before the top court passed the verdict, which was in violation of one of the court’s own earlier judgements. “Jhuggi dwellers were not parties in the present writ petition before this Hon’ble Court, either directly or in representative capacity, their stance and the relevant documents could not be brought before this Hon’ble Court for its kind consideration,” the plea said. The plea claimed that the August 31 order was “inhuman and against public policy” as lakhs of women, children and old persons would be left without a roof if the slums were demolished.

The petition added that the Indian Railways did not inform the Supreme Court about the protocol formulated by the Delhi High Court for the removal of the huts. The protocol had provided for a detailed survey of slum dwellers sought to be removed and rehabilitation or relocation as a condition for demolition. The Delhi government has also formulated the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, which forbids demolition of slums without relocation, the plea said.

Political battle

On Friday, the Aam Aadmi Party had claimed that the Railways had filed an affidavit in the top court that the slums were obstructing the cleanliness campaign of the Centre. The party’s spokesperson Raghav Chadha said the affidavit had exposed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s mentality.

“Arvind Kejriwal is making a full proof plan of action for the slum dwellers,” Chadha said. “This action plan and policy will ensure that no slum dwellers’ houses are demolished and the BJP’s plan to make people homeless will not become successful.” The AAP leader said that if needed, his party will approach the Supreme Court and also “fight this battle on the streets”.

However, BJP’s Delhi unit spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor refuted the allegations levelled against the party and called them false and worthy of condemnation.

Statement against forced evictions

At least 70 signatories, including the Right to Food Campaign and the Centre for Advocacy and Research along with residents of the Capital, have urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its August 31 ruling.

“Passed in a long pending case on waste management in the city, the order will have devastating consequences on the lives, livelihood, dignity and rights of nearly 50,000 households, or over 2.5 lakh people,” the signatories said in a statement. “It also comes at a time when the city is barely coping with the assault of the Covid-19 pandemic and will expose marginalised communities to health risks that further compound the threat to their homes, assets and livelihoods.”