The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to stay the demolition of a slum cluster at the site allotted to the NDRF for construction of its headquarters but directed that the exercise be carried out on June 15 instead of June 2.
Justice Tushar Rao Gedela, while hearing a petition by the residents of the slum cluster Priyanka Gandhi Camp in Vasant Vihar, asked Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to consider the plea of the petitioners for rehabilitation and shift them to a temporary shelter in the meantime.
“Notice of demolition dated May 19, 2023, which will be enforced from June 2, 2023, be extended to June 15, 2023.. We have not stopped. We are not staying it. We are saying shift the date, the deadline,” said the judge.
The counsel for the petitioner said the families have been residing in the area for the last three decades and were entitled to rehabilitation under the relocation policy of 2015 as the cluster was part of an additional list of 82 slums covered by it.
She prayed for a direction from the court for maintenance of status quo as interim relief.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, appearing for the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said construction of the headquarters was a matter of national safety and security.
“This is far more critical. CP etc are in seismic zone.. There is imminent threat. This is not a case of competing interest but overwhelming requirement of criticality,” he added.
ASG Sharma said the suggestion was not to make the petitioner families “shelterless” as the notice of demolition itself provided that they could stay at the night shelters being run by DUSIB as per the applicable policy.
The court was also informed the land in question was allotted by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to the NDRF in 2020 and currently the headquarters of the force is located in leased premises for which crores of rupees was being paid as rent.
The court observed while the construction of NDRF headquarters cannot be stopped, there was a need to balance the interests of the parties, and asked the authorities concerned to consider the issue of rehabilitation of the slum dwellers.
“If NDRF building has to be constructed, it cant be stopped but I have to balance,” the court said.
“Keeping in view the fact that the notice issued by NDRF is to be put into force from June 2, 2023, it is deemed appropriate to direct DUSIB to provide temporary shelter to all 69 families before this court,” the court ordered.
It clarified the cost of moving from the existing cluster to a night shelter shall be borne by DUSIB as a one-time measure, and as far as rehabilitation is concerned, the Board shall consider the present petition as a representation and resolve the issue within two weeks.
Lawyer Parvinder Chauhan, appearing for DUSIB, said the petitioner cluster was not part of the list of 675 notified clusters entitled to rehabilitation, and those part of the additional list did not have any such vested right. However, the families which approached the court were at liberty to stay in the night shelter according to the applicable policy.
He said DUSIB was running several night shelters in the city with adequate capacity to accomodate them.
The court issued notice on the petition and asked the authorities to file their response.
The matter would be heard next on August 8.