The high court directed the Delhi chief secretary on Wednesday to hold a meeting with other authorities to discuss a comprehensive resettlement plan for the Tughlaqabad village residents, who are facing an eviction notice for illegally encroaching land in the Tughlaqbad Fort area.
The court passed the order after the Delhi government’s counsel submitted that they intend to rehabilitate and provide alternative accommodation to those living in the Tughlaqabad Fort area with the help of land-owning agencies.
The court was hearing a petition filed on behalf of more than 1,000 families residing in Tughlaqabad village, who were served with notices by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on January 11 regarding the removal of illegal occupants of houses in the Tughlaqabad Fort area by January 26.
Petitioner Mazdoor Awas Samiti, a union of the Tughlaqabad village residents, sought directions to the Centre and the Delhi government to provide assistance, immediate rehabilitation and alternative resettlement to those living on the land belonging to the ASI.
Justice Prathiba M Singh noted the submissions of the Delhi government’s counsel and said, “Let a meeting be called by the chief secretary of Delhi with senior officials from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), ASI, the district magistrate concerned and Delhi Police on February 21.”
“At the meeting, a proper comprehensive plan for the resettlement or rehabilitation of residents be discussed and the same be placed on record. It is made clear that the authorities concerned shall ensure that the plan is put up before this court without any delay, failing which the court would have no option but to implement the order passed by the Supreme Court,” the high court said.
The apex court had, in its February 4, 2016 judgment, clearly recognised the importance and identity of the Tughlaqabad Fort. According to the verdict, the fort has to be treated as a protected monument. All construction in the area was stopped after the top court verdict.
The Supreme Court had also given clear directions for the removal of unauthorised construction as also encroachers from the area.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who appeared in the matter on behalf of the petitioners, said they are only praying for rehabilitation and it is not in dispute that the Tughlaqabad Fort and its adjoining areas have to be treated as a protected monument.
Representing the Delhi government, advocate Rishikesh Kumar said the city government, along with the DUSIB and the DDA, will prepare a rehabilitation plan and place it before the court so that a phased movement of the residents of the Tughlaqabad Fort area can be commenced.
As the counsel said the government is willing to rehabilitate the people, the judge said, “That is the best thing and that should have been done earlier. Two-and-a-half lakh people are living there.”
The petition, filed through advocate Kawalpreet Kaur, sought directions to the government to put on record the survey report of the identified residents whose houses or structures or jhuggis (shanties) would be demolished.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has also called for the suspension of the ASI’s demolition drive at Tughlaqabad till the rehabilitation of all children residing in the area is ensured.
Taking suo-motu cognisance of the drive, the child rights body had said on January 18 that taking away the shelter from these families in such extreme Delhi weather was nothing short of cruelty.